Little Tails on the Farm
Frédéric Brrémaud (writer), Federico Bertolucci (artist), Mike Kennedy (translator)
Lion Forge Comics
Little Tails on the Farm is perfect for the parent who is tired of board books, but whose child isn’t ready for Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur just yet. Little Tails follows pals Squizzo and Chipper on a grand tour of the farm next to their cottage. All the two want is more milk, but circumstances (and a tractor) keep getting in the way. Writer Frédéric Brrémaud and cartoonist Federico Bertolucci, in partnership with translator Mike Kennedy, bring the squirrel and pup to life in an interesting combination of comic and traditional children’s book, which feels to me an easy introduction to the world of comic books.
The story in Little Tails is straightforward, with enjoyably educational tidbits scattered here and there like chickenfeed. As Squizzo and Chipper make their way across the farm, they meet animals often found on a working farm. I most felt Brrémaud’s non-American perspective in his choice of animals, in a pleasant way. Having read entirely too many American children’s books involving farms, I appreciated seeing a few creatures who rarely make the appearances they do here. Rabbits and a draft horse set the best example. Children’s books about farms here most often include rabbits as either pets or wild animals out to steal the farmer’s hard-earned vegetables (if they warrant inclusion at all), and the horses featured are usually race horses, not work horses. Brrémaud and Bertolucci’s versions are, outside thoroughbred country, considerably more realistic.
I also appreciated the precaution about working dogs. One of the farm cats warns Squizzo and Chipper not to trust dogs they don’t know, as the farm dog has a specific job: keeping the chickens safe from any errant foxes. It serves as a nice reminder for parents and children alike that not all dogs are pets (and treating any unknown dog as a best friend might not work out in the human’s favor).
Artistically, Little Tails feels as though it cannot decide whether it wants to be a comic book or a traditional children’s book. Each page is divided, with the top devoted to the comic strip adventures of Squizzo and Chipper and the bottom left for more traditional illustrations of whichever animal they have encountered. Both styles are well-executed; however, they just don’t seem to mesh. The only places they’re incorporated organically are on the cover and over the last three pages, where Squizzo and Chipper wander through informational blurbs about each of the animals referenced throughout the story. For me, those were the four most visually successful pages.
I will say, however, that my opinion on the visual success of Bertolucci’s art was not shared by the six-year-old demographic in my household. The target audience thoroughly enjoyed the entire book. For that reason alone, I would recommend incorporating Little Tails on the Farm into the library of any child you want to bring into the comic book fold.