The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy

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The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lorraine McDonald
Reviewed by Lorraine McDonald
Summary: Arff, Yap, Baa, Neigh Neigh! When the farmer goes away the animals have the most fun day ever. Let them talk you through what happens with the help of some splendid illustrations. A super book that has bags of re-reading potential, this one’s suitable, whilst not simplistic, for very young children.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 9781406356533

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Flobba dob. Eh-oh. Or should I just stop the words completely and communicate with a swanee whistle? From the Flowerpot Men to the Teletubbies via the Clangers, the substitution of ‘real’ words with made up language and sounds has always been controversial. So I’ll level with you straight away and spoil the ‘surprise’ of The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh! by revealing that, bar the title, there are no proper words in this book. When this book is described as being told in the animals’ own words it means quite literally that. Barks. Hisses. Neighs. Cheeps. And lots of them. For 32 pages.

I’ll admit that my heart sank a bit when the book arrived and I leafed through it. I love noisy books and I love quirky books but the thought of imitating a farm yard for the duration of an entire story struck me as tedious. I was certainly not going to be reading this one in a public place. Safe in the privacy of my own home, small child was gathered on to my lap and I began. And … it was great!

So, what’s the story? As the farmer drives his tractor out to the fields for a day’s work, the animals are watching carefully. They have the most marvellous day planned away from the farm. A trip floating down a lazy river leads to a picnic, some fairground fun then waterskiiing… what a day! As night draws in the jollity continues until the farmer is spotted on his way home.

Even when I doubted the language in this book, the illustrations were calling to me. I think they are glorious and my little boy seems to agree too as he was quite mesmerised by some of the plates. The style is colourful, yet soft, 1950’s Americana. The animals are numerous and drawn in detail whether au natural or in one of the outfits required for the day’s activities. There are a couple of standouts for me and junior which deserve a mention. One is a double page spread bathed in an orange sunset where the dog alerts the other animals to the return of the farmer with every sinew of his cartoon body stressing the urgency. The second is the inevitable scramble of animals back to the farm that follows in a veritable blur of fur and feathers. We lingered over that one for quite some time. The art work is clever as well as colourful. Wonder how the animals can pack so much in to one day? Just consult the map on the title page to see how roads and rivers connect the farm to the other locations. The farmer is never too far away either, he’s generally somewhere to be seen in the distance. How they acquire swimsuits and evening wear AND force trotters and paws in to them remains unexplained but I’m happy to write that one off to artistic license.

Apart from the fun of the story, there are some learning opportunities here. Although there are no words, the animal sounds presented in rhythmic verses make the text readable and fun. The fabulous illustrations mean that a non-reader can follow the story for themselves. The inner and outer covers contain a glossary of animal sounds presented next to the appropriate animal so a young child can learn the sound and make it when they recognise the animal in the story. Indeed, the order in which the animals appear in the illustration approximately matches the animal sound written in the text so a pre-reader can ‘read’ the text. They can also try to spot the farmer or even follow the animals’ journey on the map.

The animals’ crazy antics in The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh! will introduce the very young to what fun books can be. There is a lot to learn and enjoy here, from the art of story telling, to the feel and sound of language. I am unapologetic though for revealing the lack of real words just in case this book is bought with the intention of expanding the vocabulary of an early reader. That said, there should be room on every shelf for a variety of books. There’s certainly a space in our bookcase for these farmyard creatures who show that communication is about more than just the English language. So, in the words of Bill and Ben, I’ll say Babap for now or should that be Baa! Neigh!

If you want to make some more noise, albeit with words, try Noisy Poems by Debi Gliori.

Buy The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy at

Buy The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy at


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