STARRED REVIEW
September 17, 2019

The Hundred-Year Barn

By Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Kenard Pak
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Newbery Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan tells the story of a barn, built in 1919, in this warm, joyous celebration of family.

The story is told from the point of view of a grown man, looking back fondly on the construction of the barn when he was 5 years old. It was “built by townspeople: fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, grandmothers and grandfathers, and friends.” The boy stands out on this rust-colored palette with his bright red hat. He recalls the sensory details of that time—the hot sun, the sounds of laughter as he played with his friends, the “butterscotch floors” of the barn and more—and remembers the moment his father lost his gold wedding band. MacLachlan’s use of vivid, figurative language makes this lengthy story sing (the “ice-blue wings” of swallows “flashing in the sunlight,” and hammering that “echoed in the valley like the beat of music”).

Seasons pass throughout many years, and the boy grows, eventually marrying a childhood friend in the barn. New children are born. The barn remains, steadfast. One day, the boy-now-man, still in his red cap, finds his father’s wedding ring, “safe for all these years in the barn.” He hangs it from a string, right underneath a photo taken the day of the barn raising.

Kenard Pak’s soft, smudgy illustrations reflect the book’s nostalgic tone, and the striking red of the barn pops among the primarily earth-tone colors of the story. The humble building is the star of the show, after all—a symbol of kinship and love.

 

Julie Danielson conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

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The Hundred-Year Barn

The Hundred-Year Barn

By Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Kenard Pak
Katherine Tegen
ISBN 9780062687739

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