Good Morning, Farm Friends!

Cover of Good Morning, Farm Friends!

“The farm is full of sleepyheads. Let’s help our friends get out of bed.”

Good Morning, Farm Friends! is a cute, enjoyable portrait of an agriculture that is far from the industrial realities.

As the sun rises over the rolling hills and red barns of a peaceful farm, adorable animals wake up one by one. Ducklings “rise and shine” then “get in line” for breakfast. The llamas, however, “have been up for hours, nibbling at the wildflowers.” Hens are sleepier: they “don’t want to leave the nest—morning cuddles are the best!” Told in rhyming couplets, Bach’s boardbook is incredibly cute. It describes how a diverse menagerie of farm animals wake contentedly on a small, sustainable farm operation.  

Good Morning, Farm Friends! is a book to use for nourishing children’s appreciation of non-human animals and building the strand of (early childhood) climate literacy related to our interdependence on the health of the biosphere. It showcases popular expectations for livestock farming: namely, that non-human animals should live happily in diverse, healthy communities. One way the book conveys this is through the simplicity of the imagery. The pigs, for example, sport triangles for ears, u’s for closed eyes, and ovals for torsos—stimulating for the young child, easy for them to reproduce in their own drawings, but totally simplified. And yet these depictions are similar to dozens—if not hundreds—of similar titles such as Riddle Diddle Farm (2018), Farm Tails (2020), and Good Morning Farm (2020). These collectively assure young and old readers that livestock farming is cute, simple, diverse, and harmless. This representation is a far cry from the realities of the livestock industry in the United States. Today 98% of all livestock are raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs)

But should adults lobby for books that depict the realities of the livestock industry? I say no—such stories would be too traumatic and ethically complex to be generative for young readers’ development. At the same time, overly romanticized stories reinforce a pervasive cognitive dissonance of the industry’s environmental, social, and moral harms. So what to do? If adults do wish to share these stories with young people, I encourage them to consider the following:

  • Understand the type of farming depicted in the book as an ideal that we should collectively work toward in the transition to a sustainable, ecological civilization.
  • Compare illustrations of farm animals to their real-world counterparts either through photos or experiences.
  • Seek out opportunities to engage with small-scale farmers to learn about (and experience!) actual farm processes.

©2021 ClimateLit (Nick Kleese

Reading Activity:

This book is featured in Climate Literacy in Education’s critical essay: “Beyond the Barnyard: Boardbooks and Other Big Lies We Tell about Industrial Farming

Publisher: Grosset and Dunlap, 2018

Pages: 24

ISBN: 978-1524786243

Audience: Sprouts (0-3)

Format: Boardbooks, Picturebooks

Topics: Agriculture, Biosphere, Boardbook, Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), Early Childhood Climate Literacy, Ecological Civilization, Industrial Agriculture, Livestock, Sustainability