Written and Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Beach Lane Books, 2014
The plot in a nutshell: A farmer cares for a young clown
The farmer is tending to his field and turns to watch a circus train go by. He sees something fall from the train and when he wanders over to take a closer look, he discovers a smiling baby clown, with a tall red hat. The clown hugs the farmer and they walk, hand in hand, back to the farmer’s home. They share dinner and then, when they wash up, the farmer realizes that the baby’s smiling face was just painted on and underneath, he looks vulnerable and a little sad. In the morning, the farmer makes funny faces at the clown and gets him to smile and to ride on his shoulders. Together, they eat breakfast, milk the cow, collect eggs (which the baby juggles) and work in the field. As they’re sitting down to a picnic, they see the circus train in the distance and they run toward it. The clowns on the train are overjoyed to be reunited with their baby. The baby jumps into the farmer’s arms and hugs him and the farmer kisses the baby on head. As the train pulls away, they wave to each other, with the baby wearing the farmer’s wide brimmed hat and the farmer wearing the baby’s pointed red hat.
Author/illustrator Marla Frazee has published lots of books that showcase her comic side, so I really enjoyed this one, which has a warm and sentimental core. Choosing to present this story without words was brilliant, as it makes the reader really examine everything about the characters, from facial expressions to body language and there is so much to discover there. In the moment when the clown washes his makeup off and becomes a lost baby, everything changes and the reader becomes totally invested in the relationship between these two disparate characters.
Ms. Frazee illustrated this book in Prismacolor pencil and gouache, with the opening landscape depicted in neutral shades of black and brown and tan. The story’s themes are echoed in its color palettes, where the multi-colored train drops a bright red object into the dull scenery and the farmer retains a little of that color when the baby leaves, showing that his life has changed. As the farmer walks back to his house, a little circus monkey is following behind him, breaking the fourth wall to ask the reader not to tell the farmer he’s there. It’s a nice postscript to the sadness of having to see these two separate. I loved this book a ton.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that no matter how different you are, you can connect with anyone by showing them love and care.