Escape from Baxters’ Barn by Rebecca Bond is our latest read-aloud chosen expressly with the DLM in mind. A regular reader here at Hope Is the Word recommended it, so I requested it at the library. It took us quite a while to read it, given the brevity of most of its chapters, just because the DLM is quite the five year old boy in terms of his attention span. However, he was almost always willing to listen, so it was a positive read-aloud experience for us.
Escape from Baxters’ Barn is the story of a barn cat, Burdock, who is a newcomer to Baxter’s barn. The other inhabitants of the barn all have distinctive personalities and voices, and that makes it enjoyable for younger listeners: Nanny the goat, Tick the kid goat, Fluff the sheep, Figgy the pig, Tug and Pull the draft horses, Mrs. Brown the cow, and Noctua the owl all work together to pull off a rather daring, if clumsily executed, escape.
Reminiscent of our beloved Charlotte’s Web, this story is much more emotionally complex than I was expecting. Burdock, like Templeton, faces a dilemma: will he help the other animals escape, or will he think only of himself? That, along with the notion that the humans in the story were planning to burn down the barn, was a bit more than I was expecting. Still, we persevered, and I do think the DLM enjoyed it. I think I’d recommend it for a slightly older listener, though; it really isn’t too elementary for even a third or fourth grader. In fact, like the plot, the writing is fairly complex:
Nanny thought the bird was startling to look at, even lying on its side as it now was. Not exactly beautiful, but simply exquisite, like nothing Nanny had ever seen before. The feathers all along the owl’s back, head, and wings were not actually white at all. They were both tawny and brownish gray, and speckled throughout with white as if they had been lightly snowed upon. But the underside of the bird was indeed white, flecked here with tiny dots of gray. Most extraordinary of all was the face; it was truly, amazingly heart-shaped, and also white, except for a thin dark border. Into this silky valentine of down were set two closed eyes. Nanny had gotten a glimpse of the eyes, black and shiny like marbles, and she could tell immediately, those were intelligent eyes. (114)
Isn’t that lovely? I love this sentence: “Into this silky valentine of down were set two closed eyes.” Like so many other stories, Escape from Baxters’ Barn is deceptively simple. Children and adults who enjoy animal stories and adventures will enjoy this one. (Houghton Mifflin, 2015)