Friday, March 26, 2010

Poetry Book Review & Videos: Our Farm by Maya Gottfried

Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary
Written by Maya Gottfried
Paintings by Robert Rahway Zakanitch
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

Our Farm is a poetry collection that touches my heart. It speaks out to me through both its text and its exceptional illustrations. Maya Gottfried was inspired to write this book after volunteering at Farm Sanctuary, which is located in Watkins Glen, New York. In the back matter of the book, the author explains that many farm animals today do not live in idyllic conditions. She writes: “They are usually housed in huge, crowded facilities where they are denied the wind, the sun, the green grass, and the warm dirt they love. Enter Farm Sanctuary. Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary provides shelter for neglected and abused farm animals.”

Our Farm is a collection of mask poems in which different farm animals (that actually live at Farm Sanctuary) express their feelings and relate their stories to us.

Miss Grandma Moo, a wise old cow, talks to a young calf and tells the calf that she will show him/her the following: the most wonderful spot in the sun, the sweetest patch of grass, and the softest bed of clover.

Cece and Barnaby, two rabbits speak to us in haikus.

J. D. Piglet tells why it’s so great to be able to run around freely:
I can feel the warm sun on my snout…
…the mud is spraying on my belly
so cool
and wet.

Diego, a duck, quacks instructions to little ducklings—tells them to join his parade, explains to them how to flap their feet in the water, and shows them how to march up the bank:

Step one.
Shake two.
Waddle three.
And quack!

Oh, yes!

Hilda, a sheep who was the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, gives thanks for many things—including the wind that cools, the moonbeams that shine, the sunflowers that sway…and the kind hearts and hands/that brought me to my home.

Zakanitch’s realistic illustrations—done in watercolor, pencil, and ink on a blank white background—are extraordinary. They are a perfect complement to Gottfried’s mask poems. Most of the large paintings are of the animals’ faces, which look out to us from the pages. The animals are imbued with personality. Their eyes are expressive. The smaller pencil and ink sketches are more playful and add light touches of humor. The front and back endpapers give us expansive views of Farm Sanctuary and its bucolic setting.

Here is Bonnie, a donkey, giving us her view about life at Farm Sanctuary:
The Hill
by Bonnie, a donkey

the fields and trees
the wide green hills
all in front of me

my name swept by wind
my ears filled with quiet

why ever stray?
i’d rather be here
watch the land
feel the sun.

Click here to visit the Our Farm Book Web site.

Our Farm Book Promo

Visit the Farm Sanctuary Web site at

Here are two more poetry books about animals for young children:


Great Read-alouds for Little Listeners: NIBBLE NIBBLE

Click on the following link to see inside Nibble Nibble illustrated by Wendell Minor.

Julie Larios has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record.


Jules at 7-Imp said...

Oh, I've got OUR FARM, too, and LOVE it and keep meaning to post about it. Really well-done.

Have a good weekend, Elaine!

Elaine Magliaro said...


It's such a special book, isn't it? I love it too!

Mary Lee said...

I LOVE Diego's instructions! Thanks for all the info and videos! This sounds like a must-have book!

soulsearcher said...

i used to love books with so many pictures of animals..this just reminded me of my childhood when i used to write a lot of stories

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