A New Series: One Minute Reviews of
Books by Vermont Authors
Laura's column "One Minute Reviews" has appeared bi-weekly in Wilmington, Vermont's Deerfield Valley News since 2015. In April 2018, she found that no Vermont periodical consistently reviews all fiction and non-fiction by Vermont authors, so she started a series to fill that void. Published reviews from that series and some earlier reviews of local authors are listed with links to a scan of the printed copy. Reviews still in queue are listed without links until they appear in print.
New Picture Book Portrays Contemporary Haying
Christy Mihaly and Joe Cepeda, Hey, Hey, Hay! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them. Holiday House, 2018.
Christy Mihaly and Joe Cepeda have combined noteworthy talents in a picture book about haying, aimed at pre-schoolers, but with charm that also appeals to adults. The story is told in rhyming couplets that reflect the enthusiastic outlook of the bouncy, overall-clad girl who, together with her mother, spends June and July gathering hay for the winter. The text follows each step of the haying process: waiting for the grass to grow tall enough, mowing, fluffing the cut grass with a tedder, waiting for it to dry, raking it into windrows, bailing it, and finally storing it in the barn. In the middle of the process, the girl and her mother take time out "for switchel and a piece of cake!" Adults stumped when the child listener asks what switchel is will find a recipe for it in the book's concluding pages. Those who remember Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter may recognize it as the "ginger water" Ma sends to Pa and Laura when they are haying in scorching hot weather.
Joe Cepeda's illustrations add a social dimension that expands the meaning of the text. There's the machinery, of course -- machinery-loving kids will pore over the tractor, the baler and the less familiar tedder, soon mastering vocabulary not necessarily familiar to their parents. But there is also the scenery, with its flat fields, faraway barns and big sky, which takes the book far from Mihaly's Vermont and the pastoral landscape of Jessie Haas's earlier two picture books on haying (Mowing and Hurry!), and sets it in the twenty-first century Midwest. The "tale of bales" is visibly a tale of huge round bales familiar even to city kids who see them out of car windows. Importantly in both text and illustrations, the machinery is handled solely by Mom, as is the entire process her daughter narrates with familiar pride. The one-person scenario is perhaps unlikely, given the grueling process of haying even with big machines, but the point that the mechanical expertise involved in haying (and by implication, farming) is not the exclusive province of white males is well taken.
This is a beautifully produced book, well coordinated between Vermont author and California illustrator. The rhymes are catchy, the pictures delightful and instructive. Families who read it will think of it every time they pass huge bales in a hayfield, and recite in unison, Listen and I'll tell the tale/of storing summer in a bale.