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Recommended age 5-12
51 minutes
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This simple yet charming tale of an inquisitive city mouse is both informative and engaging. It weaves in details of farm life without coming off as dry or lackluster. The story feels timeless and fresh at the same time, similar to a fable. Although its target audience is much younger than me, I can very easily see how someone in that age group would enjoy it.

Francis at the Farm tells the story of its titular character Francis. He works as a firefighter before visiting his brother in the countryside. During his excursion, Francis learns about the responsibilities and perks of living on a farm. Throughout the book, he works to overcome his city upbringing and adjust to country life.

This book features the protagonist Francis and his brother Freddie, who is the owner of the farm. The juxtaposition of realistic backgrounds and illustrated characters is, while slightly jarring, an efficient way to depict life on a farm. The only shortcoming that I see are in the characters' appearances. Both Francis and Freddie's faces remain the same, without consideration of the context. I would have liked a minor change to make them more expressive. The remainder of the story more than makes up for this minute flaw. My favorite part is Francis learning about and adjusting to helping Freddie with the farm. The writer, D.G. Stern manages to portray the acclimation in a way that does not feel condescending or supercilious.

As clich´┐Ż as it may be, Francis at the Farm bears an essential message. It echoes the idiom "the grass is always greener on the other side." For Francis, visiting the farm is the "grass" - it appears to be perfect and much better than his current situation. However, he soon discovers that is far from the truth. The lesson is applicable to many situations. For its target audience, it may teach them to avoid idealizing adulthood and to expect responsibilities as they age. While the message may not be a pleasant one, it is one that needs to be said. Aside from its meaning, Francis at the Farm promotes healthy behavior. When Francis displays his ineptitude at farming, Freddie does not belittle or otherwise mock him. Instead, he expresses gratitude for his help and gently guides him through the process.

I give Francis at the Farm 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. It is available now online, so look for it.

Reviewed by Eden T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Francis at the Farm is a 51-page children's e-book that narrates the story of a mouse that lives in the city and what happens when he decides to visit his brother who lives on a farm. The book touches on the different aspects of living in a city and living on a farm and teaches children about where some common food comes from and explores two different environments - the city and the farm. It positively portrays the farm as a healthy place to live or rest and farming as a hard-working, but very rewarding way of living. The book also does a good job explaining where some things, such as milk, come from and the processes they go through in order to reach their final destination.

I believe children will really like this e-book since children are often attracted to farms, animals, tractors and firefighters, which are all included in this book. The story flows very well and makes use of lots of detail throughout it. I enjoyed how it begins by explaining that the city mouse needs a break and considers the country as a great option for vacationing. I like how the book talks about where certain foods come from, either at the farm or in the city. I believe this helps children identify with their own lives, whether they live in the city or in a rural area. The characters Francis and Freddie are nice for the most part, hard-working, gentle and generous, except when the city mouse eats the pie alone without sharing it with his brother.

The vocabulary used throughout the book could be new for the target age. Words such as "exhausting" or "pasteurized" enrich the vocabulary of young children, especially when they are well demonstrated, which they are here. I also like the collages between real images, objects and designs such as the picture of the train station where Francis arrives. I was not particularly attracted to the appearance of the mice. To me, they look more like otters than mice. Also, I believe the tough look of the firefighter mouse is a bit harsh for a young audience. The look of the farm mouse is very stereotypical, but not in a bad way. The visual quality of the book is quite appealing, aside from the appearances of the mice. The images directly related to the story are clear and easily to identify. The cover is clear, colorful and grabs the attention due to its farm elements.

This book teaches children about the world around them as well as some of the good values one should have and practice. It has great educational content, wonderful collages of real pictures of objects and designs, great vocabulary and stimulates family reading due to its high-level vocabulary.

Based on the vocabulary used throughout the book, I recommend it for ages 8 to 12. For example, words such as "baffled" or "accustomed" would need some explanation to a younger audience. For this reason, I recommend children younger than 10 read this book with the assistance of an adult.

Reviewed by Carolina S., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

Even Francis the Firehouse Mouse needs a vacation every once in a while. He decides to visit his brother, Freddie, who lives on a farm far from the bustling city. There are many chores that have to be done each day: caring for the animals, working in the fields, picking vegetables for the market, and planting new crops to harvest later in the season. It is really different from fighting fires.
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