This book attracted me with its beautiful cover, and I expected a well-illustrated, serene pastoral. I was right about the pictures, they're uniformly superb but "My Farm" has a greater narrative and emotional range than its simple title suggests. Between the covers, Lester shows us the fun and the hard work of living on an Australian sheep and cattle farm.
"My Farm" skirts the boundaries between the picture book and the chapter book by using three pictures per page, acoompanied by Lester's tightly constructed, informative narrative. Lester is also capable of poetic images that match the soft visuals. This autobiographical book follows the seasonal chores and mischief on a mid-20th centure seaside Australian farm. Lester invokes another time and place through Australian terms (explained at the back of the book), and her pictures of the farm and its surroundings. While farm life (big family gatherings, humorous encounters with siblings, home grown games, horseback riding, community faires) are pleasingly light, Lester doesn't settle into an easy sentimentality. Baby and older animals don;t always make it, and sheep may be slaughtered for food. The latter is depicted by a soft version of something you might see in a butcher shop, nothing gory, but you know what you're seeing.)
A recurring subplot involves Lester's desire for a bigger, faster pony. It's no surprise when she finally gets on, but young kids not used to this formula may enjoy the suspense. Disappointed one summer Christmas (Lester reminds us later that the seasons are "reversed" in Australia), young Alison gets her dream horse one Christmas later, waiting for her under an apple tree just ready for plucking. With gorgeous pictures and funny, informative, and sometimes touching vignettes, this is a heart-warming piece of Australiana.