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,
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.
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.