Once Upon a Farm (2002) by Marie Bradby, illustrated by Ted Rand.
I picked up this book because I was excited to see a farm book with a Black family. Let’s face it, in kids books, this is a rarity. In fact, in kids books, there are more animals running farms than people of color.
The book is like most farm books: kids doing chores, milking the cows, cleaning the barn. The family is seen tilling the land, building their house, and (in full disclosure) praying at the dinner table.
But as the kids get older, the book takes a turn for the sad.
been spreading around.
they’re all gone.
…I took a heart full—
things we didn’t sell—
how a stream sounds, the way rain clouds look, how sweet dirt smells.
Marie Bradby has created a unique book that offers a poetic take on the loss of so many family farms, focusing in on one African American family’s connection to the land.
After reading children’s book after children’s book, I thought I knew how they’re supposed to end. The ending of Once Upon a Farm caught me off guard with it’s sweet remembrance and it’s quiet mourning for what’s been lost.