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The Animal Hedge
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The Animal Hedge

by Paul Fleischman, Bagram Ibatoulline (Illustrator)

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"The versatile Fleischman presents a delightful tale of following one’s dreams. . . . Joyous, peaceful, and lovely." —- KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)

No one loves animals more than the farmer. But when a drought befalls the land, and he must sell his livestock and move to a cottage with only a hedge around it, he and his three sons


"The versatile Fleischman presents a delightful tale of following one’s dreams. . . . Joyous, peaceful, and lovely." —- KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)

No one loves animals more than the farmer. But when a drought befalls the land, and he must sell his livestock and move to a cottage with only a hedge around it, he and his three sons discover something remarkable about their hedge —- and something unique about each person who trims its branches. A testament to vision, passion, and destiny, matched by Bagram Ibatoulline’s virtuoso paintings.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ibatoulline (Crossing; The Nightingale) once again proves his versatility as he here turns to an American folk art style, with splendid results. Fleischman's (Weslandia) inspiring story, originally published in 1983, follows a father and three sons as they grow conscious of their inner dreams. As the tale opens, Ibatoulline's paintings depict a lush farm filled with contented livestock. His watercolor and gouache illustrations draw on folk-art conventions; flattened figures, moody skies and decorative borders appear to be painted on wooden panels. When a drought forces the family to sell their farm, they move into a cabin and work as tool sharpeners. The father begins to perceive in the surrounding hedge the shapes of the barnyard animals he once cherished ("Part of the hedge seemed to resemble a cow") and trims the hedge to bring them out. Later, when he urges his sons to go "out into the world," and they do not know what vocation to choose, he tells them: "Watch [the hedge] every day... It will send up its answer"-and he's right (Fleischman foreshadows their vocations in the songs they had sung on the farm). "They'd seen in the hedge what lay deep in their hearts and heavy on their minds." Even with Ibatoulline's flattened perspectives, the characters come alive with emotion. The father's eyes crease with contentment as he stands behind the cows and chickens his sons have bought him with their earnings. Ibatoulline's artwork infuses Fleischman's heartwarming story with quiet power. Ages 6-10. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Once there was a farmer who lived with his sons on a thriving farm. The farmer had cows, sheep, chickens, and other animals, and they were his great love. He loved to watch them grow and would sing songs about them. Each of his three sons also sang songs as they worked; one sang coachman's songs; one sang the songs of a traveling fiddler; and the third sang sea shanties. They were all happy until a terrible drought came and dried up the land. One by the one, the animals had to be sold off in the market. Then the farm itself had to be sold and the farmer and his sons moved to a little cottage surrounded by a hedge. They no longer had land to farm and the farmer took up a trade, sharpening tools to put food on the table. In his spare time the farmer began to trim the hedge. It seemed to him that as he trimmed, the hedge began to look a bit like a cow. Before long he had a whole yard full of hedge farm animals. It was as if the hedge was magical, as if it could turn itself into things. What follows is the extraordinary tale of how an ordinary hedge becomes a messenger of dreams and hopes. This unique tale is captivating and leaves one feeling enriched. Bagram Ibatoulline has created lush and warm illustrations in the style of American folk art with great attention being given to detail. He has so successful created the folk art illusion (the paint even has the crackle effect) that we are often convinced that we are looking at a painting that has been hanging on someone's wall for decades. A delightful book that will warm the heart. 2003, Candlewick, Ages 6 up.
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-There are no surprises in this gentle story, but there is ample assurance that following the dictates of one's heart is the surest path to personal fulfillment. In classic folkloric tradition, Fleischman tells of a happy farmer and his three sons who sing merrily as they go about their chores. When they fall on hard times, they are forced to sell their livestock and move to a small cottage surrounded by a hedge. While trimming it, the farmer begins to see shapes of animals within it and adjusts his clipping so that they become visible to all. As the boys become old enough to set out into the world, he cuts the hedge down. Each young man watches it grow and trims it, finding the shape of his own dreams: a carriage and team of horses, a sailing vessel, a fiddler playing for dancers. Thus, each is pointed toward his true vocation. In a conclusion that seems as inevitable as it is satisfying, the sons pitch in to buy their father the livestock he needs to return to the animal husbandry that is his soul's delight. Ibatoulline's watercolor-and-gouache illustrations, inspired by 19th-century American folk-art paintings, are the perfect complement to this simple allegory. Simply lovely.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The versatile Fleischman presents a delightful tale of following one's dreams. A farmer "whose heart glowed like a hot wood stove with the love of animals" loses his land to drought. The grief-stricken farmer finds solace by trimming his hedge in the shape of animals. Each spring his hedge brings forth chicks, calves, and piglets that grow over the summer to adult topiary animals. When the farmer's three sons come of age and need to find trades, they trim the hedge into shapes that reveal their own hearts' desires. Ibatoulline, who seems never to do the same thing twice, offers watercolor-and-gouache illustrations, reminiscent of American folk art complete with crackle, perfectly evoking agricultural contentment. Deceptively simple endpapers and borders complement lavish spreads of the fantastic hedge. Joyous, peaceful, and lovely. (Picture book. 6-9)
From the Publisher
Bagram Ibatoulline was born in Russia, graduated from the State Academic Institute of Arts in Moscow, and has worked in the fields of fine arts, graphic arts, mural design, and textile design. He has illustrated CROSSING by Philip Booth, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, and THE NIGHTINGALE by Hans Christian Andersen as retold by Stephen Mitchell. He says, "As I was working on THE ANIMAL HEDGE, I was most influenced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American folk art. I appreciate the naiveté of those untrained painters."

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.12(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Paul Fleischman is the award-winning author of many books for children and young adults, including JOYFUL NOISE: POEMS FOR TWO VOICES, winner of the Newbery Medal; DATELINE: TROY, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults; and WESLANDIA, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book. He lives in the town of Aromas, California. "Growing up in Santa Monica, California," he recalls, "I used to walk past a hedge trimmed into animal shapes. I felt sure there was a story in that hedge - all I had to do was look for it, then trim it into shape."

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