With memorable paintings marked by the same clarity and vivacity as those he created for Market!, Lewin sets another diverting scene, this time at a county fair. Beginning with the elaborate set-up to the inner workings and ending with what appears to be a nearly instant shutdown of the fair, the artist seamlessly shifts his focus from convincing close-ups (the hooded heads of newly shorn sheep, the triumphant faces of youngsters receiving blue ribbons) to panoramic vistas (a midway crowded with color, pastel-hued fireworks exploding in the night sky). Despite its appealing, folksy tone, the narrative stumbles in spots: descriptions of the fair's amusements, foods and displays too often read as dry listings, and there are some awkward uses of the passive voice ("Even if no prize is won, everyone takes pride in a job well done"). But Lewin's exuberant double-page watercolor spreads provide ample compensation, making this visit to the fair worth the price of admission. A pleasant companion to Elisha Cooper's more intimately observed Country Fair (reviewed May 26). Ages 5-up. (Aug.)
- Adele Mujal
This large-format book gives the reader a full description of the many things that go on at a county fair from beginning to end. The watercolor illustrations really tell the story, but the words add interesting detail. My favorite scene shows the fair with fireworks bursting in the suddenly illuminated night sky. For children who have never been to such a fair, this book will show them what it's like. And for those whose families attend a fair every year, they can remember the thrill of the rides, the fun of the junk food, and the work of preparing an animal, vegetable, or home-cooked creation to be judged. This is a nice book; my only quibble is that it could have been made more personal by introducing characters and viewing the fair through their eyes. The pictures really capture what a fair looks like.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4This superbly illustrated visit to a county fair resembles a photo-essay in its remarkable realism. Lewin begins with the empty fairgrounds waiting for the cheering crowds and the carnival to arrive. He poetically describes the construction of midway rides as "giant metal insects emerging from cocoons" and then goes on to detail the proud 4-H'ers as they prepare their animals for competition. Readers learn that shoe polish is sometimes used to blacken the hooves and noses of sheep and that white pigs are dusted with baby powder. Glorious watercolor illustrations of fireworks, carnival rides, and parades shine with excitement. Other pictures delineate interesting facts. For instance, canvas hoods are put on recently shorn sheep so they will stay clean until judging. The delighted faces of participants show the pride of hard work. The author presents an American tradition as an adventure all children should be eager to experience. This distinguished book will appeal to a wide variety of ages and fill a need for curricular material on the subject.Jackie Hechtkopf, Talent House School, Fairfax, VA
In sparkling, full-bleed watercolors and lively text, Lewin (Market, 1996, etc.) recreates that once-a-year phenomenon—the county fair. He begins with carnival trucks rumbling into the empty fairground. Soon the rides go up "like giant metal insects emerging from their cocoons . . . the Ferris Wheel, the Tilt-a- Whirl, and the Flying Bobs." The "4-H'ers" arrive with their livestock and begin to brush and comb, wash and clip, powder and polish. By late afternoon the opening-day parade heads toward the fairground, ending up in front of the jam-packed grandstand. As night falls, a fireworks display kicks off the festivities, and the midway bursts into life. Lewin captures it all from the blaring loudspeaker and bright lights of the midway to the hall where judges pin ribbons on quilts, crafts, fruits, vegetables, and glistening jars of preserves. A wonderful close-up of sheep, hooded and blanketed to keep them clean, contrasts with an aerial view of the carnival at dusk. Before the whole show moves on, Lewin visits the quiet stall housing the world's largest cow, where "a child with the face of an angel leans against the warm bulk of the great beast and hums softly." A pulsing, panoramic examination of a summertime ritual.