Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review - Snowy Farm

Snowy Farm
by Calvin Shaw
illustrated by Oamul Lu
Date: 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A magical and lyrical fantasy about a family of farmers who live in a shimmering, frosty house in a snowy white world, where warmth of each other is all they need to be cozy and happy.

There’s a snowy white windmill
on a snowy white farm
with a frosty old house
and a snow covered barn.

And so begins this enchanting story of a family in a frozen land whose quiet and simple way of family life is all they need. This fantastical picture book from debut author Calvin Shaw and internationally renowned illustrator Oamul Lu is sure to warm hearts and become a perennial family favorite.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm sorry, but this is just stupid. I'm losing patience with some children's books these days. In this case, the ridiculous premise is made worse by not including the author's note at the beginning, leading to the impression that this is culturally appropriative and grossly inaccurate... when it's really just weak fantasy.

The problem is that this is--according to the author's note--an imagined idea of what it might look like for a family to live in Antarctica. But then the people are drawn in a way that makes them look like they're Inuit... and it all goes downhill from there as they're shown harvesting snow apples, feeding snow carrots to their animals, raising chickens (who wear earmuffs), and making snow angels with the goat. But they're also shown building structures out of snow blocks and eating locally caught fish. It's impossible to tell what's real and what's imagined. The Dutch-style windmill on the first page was the first big clue that something was amiss, but some of the other details were realistic, making it difficult to sort out what was real. (I'm also not a fan of the mother being the cook for the family and the father doing the farm work. If this is fantasy, why are rigid gender stereotypes still enforced here?)

I do not like the pictures, either. They're too rough for my taste. And I just don't get all the animals wearing human accessories. Why would you bring animals from a temperate climate if you're going to go live in the coldest place on earth? (It could've gone full-on fantasy and had the family raising penguins instead of chickens and using reindeer instead of horses. You know, cold-climate creatures to go with the cold climate. At least then it would've made more sense.)

This was a total miss for me. It either needed to be more reality-based or more clearly fantasy. This is too realistic, and it's going to be confusing for some readers... especially since they won't encounter the author's note until after they've already read this head-scratcher.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.71 out of 5

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