Friday, December 13, 2013

Single Father's Book Club: I GREW UP ON A FARM

Like a lot of people, I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up on a planned suburban development to accommodate Baby-Boomers' ever growing demand for affordable housing. Located about 20 miles outside a larger metropolitan area, there were 1,500 three-bedroom and two-bathroom ranch homes in our 1960's era subdivision, which required the clearing of hundreds of acres of farmland. At my house, there were no chickens, no cows, and no hogs.

I did not grow up on a farm, but Alan K. Lewis did.

2008 Charlotte Award Nominee book, I Grew Up On A Farm is a nostalgic journey through Mr. Lewis' real childhood experiences on the family farm near Middletown, New York where he and his brother were born and raised. The story is non-fiction and the reader will find no cute rhymes and no simple or entertaining plots. Rather, the young audience will find a simple and true account of life on a farm in rural America during the 1950's and 1960's. For example, on page 13, Lewis describes a typical summer night, "At night, we slept in tents under the stars. Our favorite nighttime games were playing flashlight tag and catching fireflies in jars to watch them light up." Lewis writes about his special pet on page 18, "I had a pet squirrel named Nutsy. My cousins would laugh when he climbed on my head."

Perhaps the most unique aspect of I Grew Up On A Farm is the illustration technique, which I do not know whether Lewis and illustrator Bob Fletcher created. However, the used of Lewis' real family photos which are expanded by Fletcher using colored pencils (I think) to include the images that may have been outside the view of the camera lens create a interesting and attractive effect. One image is that of the family's Parmall tractor, standing vertical on its rear wheel towing a farm implement. The picture is black and white and only a part of the grading tool in-tow and some trees in the background are visible. The photo is then used as the illustration's centerpiece and the remainder of the implement is sketched to the right, the trees fill-out the horizon, and Lewis's father and brother are included in the foreground and to the left to complete the illustrations. Several other similar illustrations, some lone photographs, and even a few newspaper clippings help Alan K. Lewis convey the farm experience. Very creative.

As much as anything else, it apparent that Lewis wants to teach. (Lewis had been a teacher in the area and is currently the assistant principal at a local elementary school.) And, teach he does. I Grew Up On A Farm includes both a brief glossary of farm terms like "coop," "poultry," and "slop," which for you city folk is defined as "a pig food made from grain, water, and pieces of vegetables." Finally, Lewis includes a number of active websites where inquisitive future farmers, or even future investment bankers who want to know a little about commodity pricing, can go to learn more.

In all, this a very nice book and a fun way for children take a step back in time to see what it was like to grow up on a farm.