The picture books of Bill Peet were a big part of my childhood. To learn more about Peet and his long career (including working at Disney Studios as a story editor during the heyday of their animated films) read my review of Bill Peet: An Autobiography, his Caldecott winning, wonderfully illustrated memoir. Today, on the birthday of Rachel Carson, the marine biologist, founder of the contemporary environmental movement and author of the book that started it all in 1963, Silent Spring, it seemed like a good time to review Farewell to Shady Glade. Published in 1966, Peet dedicated this book to Rachel Carson, writing, "To Rachel Carson, with the hope that the new generation will carry on her all-important work toward preserving what is left of our natural world."
Farewell to Shady Glade begins, "Shady Glade was a towering sycamore and a cluster of willows and cottonwoods along the bakns of a winding creek." Shady Glade is also home to hundred of birds in the spring and "half a dozen rabbits, a pair of possums, a single skunk, five green frogs, one bullfrog, and an old raccoon" all year long.
But one day when a deep, rumbling sound that scares off all the birds and mystifies the inhabitants of Shady Glade, it is the old raccoon who, after a bit of sleuthing, realizes that the monstrous machines making the noise can only mean bad news for the animals. After several attempts to describe the machines and what they do to his friends, he takes them to see the machines. The bravest of the rabbits wants to attack, but the raccoon warns them off. A night awake worrying over their future, the raccoon is convinced that finding a new Shady Glad is their only option.
The raccoon and his crew climb a huge tree with a branch that hangs out over the train tracks and, in the dead of night, they launch themselves onto a passing train. After miles and miles of passing through places that just don't seem right, an act of nature lends the animals a hand and they finally find a new glade to call home. In a time when publishers limit most picture books to 1,500 words or less, Peet's book, almost 50 years old now, is practically a novel, but none the less readable for this difference in current trends. While Peet is a master at telling a story in rhyme, Farewell to Shady Glade is traditional prose and completely engaging. His animals have character and the suspense is palatable. Combined with Peet's detailed, intricate illustrations, Farewell to Shady Glade is a joy to read and a story that conveys complex ideas in a simple, straightforward way that young readers and listeners can grasp readily.
Be sure not to miss Peet's other brilliant, slightly more hardhitting story of the effect we have on the environment, The Wump World.
Source: Purchased Copy