The excitement of a trip to a city farm is described with particularly vivid insight in this joyful picture book, and no wonder: A Visit to City Farm was created as a special and probably unique collaboration between the children of Year 5 at Chalkhill Primary School, Brent and the author, illustrator, editor and printer. A note at the back from headmistress Rose Ashton tells us that the children were ‘hands-on’ from the idea to the finished product and there is definitely a strong sense of the community of young minds behind the story. Some individuals are picked out – Salma, who trails behind on the walk to the station, and TJ who is alarmed when the horses suddenly gallop towards the fence for feeding time – but generally it’s their group reactions that are discussed and recorded. Rainbow Class love meeting the llamas and the alpacas for example, with their beautiful soft coats, and they’re all careful to creep quietly past the enormous pig in his sty. In this scene, Mister Pig is an imposing presence in the foreground but our eye is still drawn towards the row of brightly coloured welly boots across the top of the page, all we see of the children. The story is full of details that primary school children will love and, no matter where they live, they will identify completely with the children of Rainbow Class as they enjoy their special day out.
Firetree Books is Verna Wilkins’s new venture, and this dynamic new company aims to present a range of books with engaging stories that celebrate our interconnected and culturally-diverse world, putting all children ‘in the picture’. A Visit to City Farm does that beautifully.