Hurry!, by Jessie Haas

Hurry!, by Jessie Haas

“Hurry!” tells the story of a farmer’s life in one remarkable afternoon — when a summer’s harvest of hay is threatened by rain clouds. “We can’t make the sun dry faster,” says a little girl’s grandfather, who waits on the sun — and worries. He re-checks it nervously, watching the graying sky. “The sun feels weak, but the wind feels strong,” hints the author — and the grandfather has sent Nora to check whether their hay is dry yet.

Jessie Haas is a talented writer who’s written several books about the farmer grandparents of a little girl named Nora. (“Sugaring” tells the story of turning sap into syrup, and in “No Foal Yet,” they nurture a mare that’s birthing of a colt — and she’s written a whole series of books called “Beware the Mare.”) But in this book, it’s the hay that looks magical in the little girls hands — crazy strands of green and brown, as Haas describes the hay appealing to the senses. “It smells as sweet as flowers… It makes a rustling, papery, hurry-up sound.” But Haas also captures the real tension that surrounds the once-a-year harvesting of a crucial crop. The grandfather rakes the hay into rows — but the sky is growing dark. Grandpa’s wife fetches the pitchforks as grandpa hitches up the hay wagon…

There’s grand illustrations for the story supplied by Jos A. Smith. Using water colors and pencils, he creates a simple beauty for the family that tends the land. On the first page he’s drawn white clouds on a blue sky over a hay field with changing shades of green — and in the center the little girl with the plow horses. Later there’s a hayloader scooping up hay, and Haas describes all the details of packing the hay into the wagon. (Grandpa and his wife move the hay to the corners of the wagon, and trample it flat so there’s more room for the rest.) But the next picture completes the story, showing the hay wagon filled with hay — Nora riding high above the ground — as a shades of grey fill the background sky. The hay wagon is a shadowy grey itself, with small shadowy people riding its load and two shadowy horses pulling.

Its load of hay “is as big as the moon” — so big that “The big moon tips.” But it doesn’t slide off. “Good job,” says her grandfather, as they hurry the wagon to the barn, which holds in the sweet hay smells. “All of summer is inside here. The rain patters, then it splashes…”

And the family sits on their enormous haystack, and watches the rain outside.

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