Gr 1-3-The creators of Cactus Hotel (1991) and Spoonbill Swamp (1992, both Holt) offer an in-depth look at a little understood agricultural cycle: wheat farming. Through Farmer Albert, children see the growing season of winter wheat from the preparation of the land in late summer, to the autumn planting, through the winter-spring growth, to the subsequent summer harvest. Humor is provided by Tulip, the cow, and Stitch, the dog. And while these touches and Albert's conversations are obviously fictitious, modern wheat farming is faithfully represented, both by Guiberson's smooth text and Lloyd's lush, realistic watercolors. All farm equipment is accurately portrayed and explained, from the harrow to the massive combine. Lloyd's rich green and gold fields undulate across double-page spreads, as inviting to readers as to the animals that feed there. After Albert's cyclical story, Guiberson adds a final note, explaining the differences between winter and spring wheat, zero-tillage techniques, and the role farmers can play in providing cover and food for wildlife while still raising their crops. Useful for beginning independent research and story time alike.-Claudia Cooper, Ft. Stockton Independent School District, TX
More than just an examination of winter wheat, this leisurely paced picture book looks at life on a farm as experienced by Albert and his companions, Stitch a dog and Tulip a cow. The story begins on a hot, dry day in August; Albert plows the ground; he then must wait until the rain comes to plant seeds. The fields sprout green in the fall; they are invaded by elk in the winter and choking weeds in the spring. In the summer, the stalks flower, go to seed, and dry out. The culmination, of course, is the harvest, followed by preparations to start planting all over again. While some of the figures are awkwardly rendered, the sweeping watercolor landscapes are appealing in their use of rich colors and textures. An author's note solves the mystery of why this particular wheat is called "winter." A pleasant, low-key offering.