Picture Books Gary Bowen The Mare's Nest

ISBN 13: 9780060284084

The Mare's Nest

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9780060284084: The Mare's Nest

There's a mystery afoot in the Vermont countryside in the summer of 1846. A wandering artist, who paints portraits of animals "as they wish to be seen, visits town after town where pets and livestock have suddenly disappeared. Horses, cows, cats, and pigs--kidnapped! The only creatures that seem to have a clue to the thefts are the animals that witness the crimes. But how can the painter figure out what his models are trying to tell him?

In each town the artist visits, the mystery continues to build, until it culminates in September with a stunning revelation at the Rutland County Fair.

Inspired by the wood paintings of internationally acclaimed Vermont folk artist Warren Kimble, The Mare's Nest by Gary Bowen is a timeless story set in the appealing landscape of rural New England.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly:

Rendered in paint on wood, Kimble's (Warren Kimble: American Folk Artist) antique-looking folk art occasions this attenuated, hokey tale about an unnamed animal portraitist who wanders the Vermont countryside looking for work during the summer of 1846. Both the credibility and flow of the narrative stumble as Bowen (My Village, Sturbridge) strains his plot to accommodate the pictures. Traveling from town to town, the protagonist learns that animals of all species and of all colors save white have been disappearing. The only witnesses are other animals, and though he has a knack for interpreting animal language, the artist cannot decipher the word "Ite-osh-urr," which each of them repeats (most readers will quickly connect the phrase to the whitewasher hovering around the scene of the crime). Despite some threads that are left hanging, the dual mystery of the missing animals and the unintelligible utterings is solved during an auction of white livestock at a county fair. Presented as a series of dated entries, the prose attempts to capture a period feeling while adapting a tongue-in-cheek humor: "A tragedy was suffered by the residents of Hinesburg when red hens disappeared from numerous coops, leaving young chicks as orphans!" Locals may enjoy the references to Vermont cities (in order of their appearance, their initials spell "whitewasher"), but the chief appeal here will be to existing fans of Kimble's art. Ages 6-10.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 3-6-Kimble's magnificent folk-art animals and rural scenes are the inspiration for this clumsy, perplexing tale set in the Vermont countryside in the summer of 1846. A "mare's nest" is defined as a deliberate hoax or a desire to cause confusion, and this unfortunate story is replete with confusing language, situations, and characters. Unfolding as a series of dated entries, interspersed with occasional "artifacts" like newspaper headlines and handwritten letters, the narrative concerns an itinerant artist who paints animal portraits while traveling throughout New England. A mystery evolves: people's pets and livestock are disappearing, and the remaining animals give a clue to the whereabouts of their missing counterparts by crying, "Ite-osh-urr!" (It is also noted that none of the missing animals were white in color.) The upshot is that a scoundrel has stolen the creatures and has whitewashed them. The concept of creating a story around existing, artfully arranged illustrations is a clever one, but Bowen's attempt falls flat. The illustrations, rendered in paint on distressed wood, are reproduced in full color with their texture and rich, warm earth tones intact. It's too bad the story cannot begin to touch their charm.
Mary Ann Carcich, Mattituck-Laurel Public Library, Mattituck, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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