Diane Prather: 'The Farmer' an endearing children's story

"The Farmer" was Mark Ludy's first book for children. He intended it to be a wordless picture book, but text was added before the book went to print.

As the story opens, the reader finds an old man with white hair and a white beard. He's a big man, dressed in blue coveralls, a green shirt, and a black hat. The farmer stands outdoors with a cup of coffee in his hand. He's taking in the sights and "smells" of the country.

The man has lived on the farm a long time. A perceptive reader will notice a photo that hangs over the farmer's bed. It's of a big, young man with dark hair who is standing next to his young, petite bride. But the farmer is alone now, except for his animals.

The farmer adores Millibell, a cute brown and white cow; Patsy, a big, pink pig; Churchill, a funny yellow duck; Clyde, a gray cat; and Squeakers, a gray mouse with pink ears.

Squeakers always is with the farmer, but sometimes he's hard to find. The mouse might be in the farmer's boot, or peeking out from a bucket, or lots of other places. He has his own little bed next to the farmer's.

A special illustration on the back cover of the book lets the reader know just how special the mouse is to the farmer.

The farmer makes a living by raising fruits and vegetables that he sells at the market. And some produce it is, too. The carrots and beets are so big that they push right through the ground. The watermelons are downright huge, and an apple tree is loaded with fruit.

Now, farmers always are at the mercy of the weather, and this farmer is no exception. One night, he awakens to see a tornado headed for his farm.

The farmer manages to get the animals into his house (even a bird). The next morning, they're all safe in the bedroom. Millibell and the farmer are halfway under the bed, and the others are snuggled up against them.

But the tornado did a lot of damage, and the crop is gone. There will be no money for winter food or for repair. The farmer is forced to sell Millibell to the Frumps, his scruffy-looking neighbors.

The farmer intends to buy Millibell back the next year, but this time, a fire destroys his crops. (It's arson, and the reader sees who started the fire.) This time, the farmer has to sell Patsy to the Frumps. He intends to buy the cow and pig the next year.

And then something very surprising happens.

"The Farmer" is an endearing story. The book is published by Green Pastures Publishing (Windsor, Colo.). The book's fourth printing copyright is 2007. The book is new at the Moffat County Library.

At the same time I reviewed "The Farmer," I savored another book by Mark Ludy. It's so terrific that I think adults would enjoy it, too. I'll write all about it in the next column.

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