From Publishers Weekly
Wisnewski follows an elderly pair of farmers through a busy day on their property in this homespun board book with a bright, nursery rhyme–like cadence. The text appears on left-hand pages (“The little old man and the little old dog/ walk out to the pen to slop the hogs”); folksy, standalone lines that trail off (“And as sure as the sun does shine...”) lead into each subsequent scene. At right, Wisnewski captures each moment in the couple’s day in circular vignettes whose thick black outlines and watery washes of bright color give them the look of stained glass windows. It’s a charmingly old-fashioned trip to the farm that speaks to hard work and simple pleasures. Up to age 4.
From Kirkus Reviews
A cozy board book is as traditional as “traditional” can be.
“On a little old farm… // In a little old house… // A little old lady flips two eggs from a pan, / as the toast pops up for her little old man.” The book goes on to enumerate the various farm activities this gray-haired white couple engages in. The little old man tends livestock and crops, while the little old lady works in her kitchen garden and cooks; throughout, a brown corgi and a tiger cat supervise. Wisnewski’s rhythmic verse rolls along with pleasing inevitability, the final line of each page of text (always on verso) ending with a turn-prompting ellipsis that takes readers to the next bucolic scene. These are presented in round medallions that take up the whole of each 6-inch-square recto, with complementary accents (pairs of red socks with the laundry scene, sprigs of blueberries with the pie-baking scene) in each corner. Although this farm is not free of relatively modern technology, those few items that do exist (an old enameled gas stove, a mid-20th-century red tractor) reinforce the sense of time gone by. The book ends with the four principals “fast asleep,” the corgi tucked in between little old man and little old lady and the cat curled up on the covers.
An idyllic and idealized portrait of rural America, preserved in ink and paint rather than amber.
Inspired by the early nineteenth-century buildings and interpreters' costumes at Old Sturbridge Village, Wisnewski places the story of Little Red Riding Hood in an old-fashioned New England setting. Wisnewski, whose first book was A Cottage Garden Alphabet (2002), here illustrates the familiar tale of Little Red Riding Hood in a series of handsome double-page pictures that have the look of tinted woodcuts, Wisnewski's signature style. Actually, the black lines are intricately cut black paper, overlaid on white backgrounds painted with watercolors in pleasing hues. From the tiny paw prints indented on the cover to the heavy, broad-bordered pages to the appealing endpapers, the book is thoughtfully designed and beautifully made. Parents looking for a version of the tale for young children may find the text a bit too long, but plenty of adults and children will admire the effective compositions, the restrained use of color, and the distinctive look of Wisnewski's artwork.
By Carolyn Phelan
From Publishers Weekly
Wisnewski's (Little Red Riding Hood) intricate, woodblock-like portraits of Irish monastery life are this book's principal charm. She portrays with loving attention the plants and flowers young monk Theophane uses to create colored inks, and frames the text with illuminations of her own. Through Theophane, Millen (Blue Bowl Down) speculates about the origin of the inks used in illuminated Irish manuscripts like the Book of Kells ("Heavenly hues/ now covered their pages/ and filled their bright books/ with colorful phrases"). But Millen is also beguiled by the marginalia included by monks in those manuscripts, and includes several, attributing them to Theophane: "I render thanks for what is given—/ my claw is tired from all this scribbling!" Mostly pleasant hymns to nature, these verses don't move the story forward. The sound-rhymed verse ("He sliced and he slivered,/ he grated and chopped,/ preparing the plants/ to be boiled in pots") lacks crispness, and so does the story as a whole; the message about how distractible people (Theophane is rather scatterbrained) are open to new discoveries is lost amid the too-varied content. Ages 6–9.
From Kirkus Reviews
Brother Theophane copies manuscripts in his monastery in “the mountains of Mourne,” but he also hides crumbs in his sleeve to sprinkle on the windowsill for the birds, and sometimes he gazes too long at the sun dancing on the pages before him. In simple rhyme, Millen conveys how, when woolgathering Theophane is banished to make ink, he finds berries, hazel wood, crocus and cabbage leaves to make many colors. The brown-garbed monks, turned from their brown inks to colors, renew their illuminations to reflect the many-hued world. The text includes a few verses in Theophane’s voice, which are based on scraps of poems written by Irish monks of the Middle Ages. Wisnewski’s gorgeous hand-colored prints are composed of strong black line and interlaced color and pattern. There are echoes of the Book of Kells and other Celtic illumination, but children will especially respond to the borders of apples and berries, the patterned stonework and the black-and-white cat that appears on almost every page. (author’s note, bibliography, websites) (Picture book. 6-9)
Little Old Farm Folk
Little Red Riding Hood
The Ink Garden of
From Polish American Journal
Everyone knows the story of Red Riding Hood, but Wisnewski has made it fresh and new in her ingeniously designed retelling. Set in rural New England in winter in the early nineteenth century, with costumes drawn from Old Sturbridge Village, the little farm girl takes her basket of bread and butter to an ailing grandmother. The pages are full of rich colors, and with strong lines that looks like woodcuts. Wisnewski creates her work with a sharp blade and black silkscreen paper, carefully hand colored in watercolor, resulting in bright bold vivid images. A delightful new book for an old story.
By Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes