Kid lit has picked up another memorable animal trio with The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer, which adds to the tally of disarming and dear picture books by frequent collaborators Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee; Music for Mister Moon).
One quiet night, three barnyard friends--a mule, a milk cow and a miniature horse--are feeling anxious: "The sun is late," says Mule. "And so is the farmer," says Milk Cow. They decide to consult a wise authority: "Barn Owl will know what to do." Barn Owl agrees with their assessment and tells them to "travel beyond the field full of sheep.../ past the sleeping giant,/ all the way to the edge of the world." There, Barn Owl assures the trio, they will find the sun. Mule, Milk Cow and Miniature Horse screw up their courage--they've never left the farm before--and follow Barn Owl's instructions.
Caldecott Medalist Erin E. Stead, here working in watercolors, graphite and colored pencils, introduces luminosity to her scenes by slathering nighttime blues with moon- and starlight, their subdued brightness reflecting on the ground in enchanting yellow flickers. Young readers of The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer will relish being miles ahead of the not-exactly-intrepid animal trio, not to mention Barn Owl, whose imperiousness is undercut by the bird's amusingly convoluted thinking. One illustration demonstrating this has Barn Owl imagining the outsize socked feet of the "sleeping giant"; as the animal friends are passing by, readers will note that the giant is actually a hulking piece of farm equipment. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author