The Hundred-Year Barn – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Once a farm girl, always a farm girl. So it’s especially lovely to go back to my roots via the prose of the fabulous Patricia MacLachlan.

The hundred-year barn was built one summer in our meadow

with a small stream running through.

It was built by townspeople:

fathers and daughters,

mothers and sons,

grandmothers and grandfathers,

and friends.

The boy telling the story was only five years old when the barn was raised. His father loses bis wedding ring during the building, but the boy finds it, only for it to fall through a hole in his pocket.

“We’re still married,” my mother said to my father.

My father smiled.

“Now I’m married to the barn, too,” he said. 

They take a photo of the barn with all of the people who helped with the raising, and nail it high on the wall. Years pass. A steady stream of animals visit, the ones being raised or wild ones passing through. The barn is a witness to weddings, birthdays, Fourth of July parties, and the wear of the seasons. Year after year, a few shingles fly away, windows break, and the barn gets new coats of paint.

One evening the boy, who is now a grown man, talks to the barn as he’s raking the straw by the stalls. He spies a nest that has fallen from the rafters. And within the nest he finds—yes, his father’s wedding ring.

Text ©️Patricia MacLachlan Illustration ©️Kenard Pak

in the sun,

in the dark.

Maybe she saw something from long ago.

Safe for all these years in the barn.

Now, perhaps I’m touched by how perfectly this book celebrates the strange and ordinary things that happen to us in life (I found my mother’s high school class ring in a flower bed when I was a teenager.), or maybe I’m drawn by how gentle this life seems in comparison to  the harrowing days we are witnessing now….BUT, this fictional barn was raised in 1919, the year that the Spanish Flu killed even more people than it did in 1918. My own grandparents were young farmers in the Midwest, with a daughter born in 1919 and my mother yet to be born in 1921.

I know that their life was hard. Farming in general still IS hard. But the community spirit, the coming together of family and friends to help raise a barn or bring in a harvest or celebrate those moments of life that are unremarkable, yet so important—well, this book made me miss my childhood and the farm in a way that nothing else has.

Kenard Pak’s earth-toned illustrations perfectly (and beautifully) match MacLachlan’s lyrical text. This book has found its way into my permanent library.


Make your own cardboard barn

Pair this book with Diane Siebert’s HEARTLAND

Write a poem about what you would do if you lived on a farm.

Title: The Hundred-Year Barn

Author: Patricia MacLachlan

Illustrator: Kenard Pak

Publisher: Katherine Tegen – Harper Collins, 2019

Themes: farming, families, community

Ages: K-4th grade

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.




16 thoughts on “The Hundred-Year Barn – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. Sheila says:

    I love the gentle feel of this. I grew up in Michigan and have always loved barns and farmlands and wide open places. Abandoned barns especially seem to have all kinds of stories to tell.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, I know what you mean. Despite its gentleness, it keeps you turning the pages in the same way that quiet books by Margaret Wise Brown do. There’s something about the cadence of the story, a combination of pacing and lyricism, along with the absorbing nature of the illustrations that propels the reader not just to the end but backward and forward again and again. I, too, love barns and the ‘amber waves of grain.”

  2. Barbara Gruener says:

    Oh my goodness, this looks like a keeper. We had a timber-roof barn from 1880 until it burned down in the early 2000s. Such an amazing childhood playground. Thank you for scouting this one out. I’m ALL over it.

  3. Kath Carroll says:

    This is gorgeous, Julianne. And its setting in 1919 makes it an even more poignant book to read now. I grew up in Florida, where concrete and transience seemed to reign, but every summer my mother, sister, and I drove to Missouri to visit family, passing by farm after farm and field after field. To me, the barns spoke so eloquently of permanence and purpose. Thanks for sharing! I need to read this one.

  4. Ste J says:

    I’m always a fan of the books you read but this one in particular sounds great, something that can be appreicated time and again by all. I think this is one of those books that will push on adult imagination more than children’s but I do like that in a book.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      I find that the author uses animals as a way in to the child’s imagination here. Coupled with all the things that happen on a farm, I think it’s absorbing for a child. But the sense of time passing and nostalgia speak to adults.

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