The Farmer and the Clown

The Farmer and the Clown

by Marla Frazee

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Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.

A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer…  See more details below


Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.

A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves—and about life!

Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/08/2014
Frazee (Boot & Shoe) crafts an affecting wordless narrative about a solitary man and his unexpected visitor. The action transpires on an austere gray-brown prairie beneath a dust-colored sky, where a frowning farmer watches a colorful circus train bouncing along a rough track. The slim, white-bearded farmer, dressed in a somber black hat and overalls, is startled to see a knee-high clown ejected from the caboose. The slouching farmer approaches the clown, who mimes the accident and rushes to be comforted. Back at the farmer's cabin, the clown washes the paint off his face, revealing a mouth turned down in a child's sorrow. The next day, the farmer cavorts to cheer him up, improving his own mood in the process; the companions milk a cow and juggle fresh eggs, to the dismay of four hens. Frazee expertly paces the story in sequential panels, implying the grandfatherly man's growing tenderness for the lost child. The circus train's return feels bittersweet until readers observe that the farmer will not be alone for long. A gorgeously executed account of the power of companionship and compassion. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
★ 08/01/2014
PreS-Gr 2—Frazee's controlled palette of subdued golds, browns, and grays offers a fitting backdrop for the hard-working farmer foregrounded in this wordless tale. Bent over his wheat, he misses the drama above as sweeping cloud formations bleed off the page. A swiftly moving circus train on the horizon introduces color and an unexpected visitor, when a bump on the tracks ejects a young clown. Exuberance meets quiet responsibility as the whirlwind in a red one-piece, the small clown, embraces the legs of the old man. Their similar silhouettes invite comparison, while their hats (one black and wide-brimmed, the other red and conical) suggest contrast. Hand in hand, they enter the farmhouse, where softly textured gouache and black pencil scenes in panels of varying shapes and sizes depict shared meals and ablutions, a protective night watch, and unanticipated antics as rust-colored long johns seem to conjure the farmer's playfulness. The bond, conveyed visually through mirrored motions, continues to develop until the train returns. Readers will wonder how to feel in the penultimate scene until they notice a clown with a black hat waving from the caboose, and the final page contains another surprise. This is a tender look at light and shadow, the joy and comfort in companionship, the lift that laughter provides, and the friendship possible among generations (and species). The poignant relationship calls to mind the quiet potency of scenes in Raymond Briggs's The Snowman (Random, 1978) and Sarah Stewart's The Gardener (Farrar, 2007). Lovely.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library
The New York Times Book Review - Grace Lin
An artist of a wordless picture book must be meticulous, carefully using the tools of color and composition to elicit an emotional experience just as a poet uses words. Marla Frazee's The Farmer and the Clown accomplishes this lofty goal beautifully…the entire book, with Frazee's perfect pacing of images and use of negative space, light and shadow, is true poetry.
September 30, 2014 - The Washington Post
Joyful, tender and triumphant, without a word spoken, this is storytelling at its finest.
October 19, 2014 - New York Times Book Review
“The book opens in a subdued landscape with the grim farmer, whose displeasure is evident when he’s obliged to rescue the young clown thrown from a passing circus train. At first, the farmer and the clown seem in stark contrast. The young clown is dressed in a red one-piece, with a relentlessly cheerful, painted smile, while the old, bent-over farmer has stark black overalls and an unchanging, glum face. But when it is time to wash up, the farmer sheds his black and white clothes and reveals a red one-piece of his own. The clown’s painted smile is wiped off, revealing that the child’s face is actually sorrowful. The emotional resonance of that single mirroring scene is extraordinary. In fact the entire book, with Frazee’s perfect pacing of images and use of negative space, light and shadow is true poetry.”
October 18, 2014 - Wall Street Journal
Marla Frazee’s “The Farmer and the Clown” (Beach Lane, 32 pages, $17.99) has an immediately hopeful feel: On the cover, a sober old fellow in Amish garb trots through a featureless landscape holding the hand of a smiling little clown. What brings such unlikely companions together? As we learn in a series of clean, airy illustrations, the clown—a child of no more than 4—has fallen off a circus train, and the farmer is taking him home to his solitary dwelling. At first the farmer seems at a loss, then it is the child’s turn to feel worried, but finally, to our relief, the two begin to console each other, and the next day—hoorah!—the circus train returns. Of course we rejoice when the little clown rejoins his family, but we feel a pang for the farmer, who is alone again. Or is he? In a final image, we see him glumly headed home, unaware that a new impish companion is following.
Shelf Awareness
In this wordless masterpiece, Marla Frazee (All the World) depicts a life-altering meeting between a farmer and a clown...Frazee pays attention to every detail in her pencil-and-gouache illustrations: the thin white band around the farmer's wide-brimmed brown hat picks up the narrow brown suspenders that hold up his matching brown trousers and extend across his spotless white long-sleeved shirt...In 32 pages, Frazee takes us on an emotional journey that neither farmer, nor clown--nor reader--will ever forget. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: A Caldecott Honor artist takes readers on a wordless emotional journey that begins with a life-altering meeting between a farmer and a clown child thrown from a circus train.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
...Frazee imbues her simple story with the immediacy and pathos of a short silent film, and both the clown kid and the old farmer are dramatic body actors: the kid’s overemoting and excitedly flapping limbs make him the fizzy center of most spreads, and his disconsolate drooping is as sad as a puppy whimper. The pencil and gouache landscapes draw on soft, smoky grays and yellows and sometimes grayish yellows, giving the wide-open plains a period, possibly Depression-era feel that adds atmosphere and enhances the importance of the warmth between the two protagonists. Audiences, especially those cuddled in willing adult laps, will enjoy filling in the gaps of this story brimming with both pathos and comfort—and those viewers worried about the newly bereft farmer will appreciate the last page, where a circus monkey stealthily follows the man back home to start a new story.
Horn Book
Appearances can be deceiving in this superb wordless book from two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Frazee...Using only pictures, Frazee’s book—both spare and astonishingly rich—offers a riveting narrative, characters to care deeply about, and an impressive range of emotion.
10/1/14 Booklist
In this wordless picture book, a bearded farmer is alarmed to see a young clown tumble out of a passing circus train...Frazee uses a muted color palette that matches the quiet, gentle mood of the story. Her simply drawn characters with minimal facial features beautifully convey emotions, particularly when the dour farmer has more pep in his step after he and the clown go separate ways (but trade hats first). Little ones will delight in the farmer clowning around to the last page, which promises a fun surprise for the old man.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-08-20
A solitary farmer on an empty plain receives the most unlikely visitor. A tall, scowling farmer labors with a pitchfork on an endless brown field. In the distance, surprisingly, a steam train crosses the horizon. As the train chugs off the edge of the spread, a jolt propels something off the caboose. The startled farmer sets out in that direction. He finds a small clown, wearing white makeup, a red-and-yellow costume and a broad smile. The clown deftly pantomimes having fallen off the train—action and emotion shine wordlessly—and the farmer takes him home. Silently they stare at each other, eat and wash their faces. Without makeup, the child-clown's smile disappears; is he sad to lose that connection to his home-train, or had the smile been made of makeup all along? With growing tenderness, the farmer watches over his sleeping guest and, come morning, hops and dances to cheer him up. They juggle eggs and share real farmwork until the circus train returns along the distant tracks. Its shape and primary colors make it look like a toy, especially against the soft, textured grays and browns of the farm, skies and earth. Using gouache and black pencil, Frazee—a virtuoso of mood and line—takes the surly farmer through bafflement, contemplativeness and true affection.The beauty of an unexpected visit, done beautifully. (Picture book. 3-6)

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Product Details

Beach Lane Books
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File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Marla Frazee has illustrated many acclaimed picture books, including God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant; Stars by Mary Lyn Ray; All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, which received a 2010 Caldecott Honor; Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers; and Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox; as well as her own Farmer and the Clown; Boot & Shoe; The Boss Baby; Walk On!; Roller Coaster; Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert; and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, which received a 2009 Caldecott Honor. She is also the illustrator of the bestselling Clementine chapter book series by Sara Pennypacker. She lives in Pasadena, California. Visit her at

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