"Together We Grow"

A storm arrives on the pastoral landscape of “Together We Grow” ushering in a sticky situation for farm animals in a gorgeous book in verse by Susan Vaught. This hardcover picture book, with its spare words and expressive illustrations, is the June Baby Buzz Pick.

Each month The Missourian chooses a book for children birth to age 5. A review of the book appears in the second weekend issue of the newspaper.

The reviews are written by Maria Brady-Smith, former parent/educator with the Washington School District, and Chris Stuckenschneider, Missourian book editor. The following review was written by Stuckenschneider.

As storm clouds roll overhead, and the wind picks up the animals in “Together We Grow” hurry to take refuge in the barn. As they enter the welcoming structure, a bedraggled fox stands off to the side surrounded by puddles, a foreshadowing of what’s to come. The fox needs to take cover too as lightening streaks the sky, his “home asunder.”

With hesitation, the fox climbs a woodpile to peak into the barn window, a glow radiating from inside where a menagerie of animals have gathered, frightened, hungry and in need of care. Noticing the fox they cry, “Go away! We’re full today!”

Despondent, the fox retreats into the night where he joins his mate and kits, but not before turning back to gaze at the barn one last time. There he sees a young duck in the open door. A page turn shows the fox and duck, natural enemies, peacefully standing close, bill to nose, as the kits look on, copper eyes shining.

Though the duck’s quite small, he proves to be a compassionate peacemaker in this heartwarming story, providing a bridge of goodwill that settles the fox family’s dilemma.

Illustrations by Kelly Murphy are wondrous — the farm scenes like paintings of American masters, the animals’ emotions as they move from shock to acceptance easily recognizable. The broad array of the animals included in this book will appeal to little ones who will be eager to point and name each one.