Escape from Baxters' Barn by Rebecca BondEscape from Baxters' Barn by Rebecca Bond

Escape from Baxters' Barn

byRebecca Bond

Hardcover | July 7, 2015

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When Burdock the barn cat sneaks into the Baxters' farmhouse kitchen to hide behind a warm stove, he overhears a sinister plot that endangers all the animals on the farm. It's up to him and his cacophonous cohorts to figure out how to bust out of the barn before it's too late. In this winning debut, readers will fall in love with the solitary cat, the self-effacing cow, the unstoppable pig, even a wayward she-owl-all brought to life with clever dialogue, poetic descriptions, and expressive black-and-white illustrations. This warm, lively read-aloud story about teamwork and friendship has the timeless appeal of a much-loved quilt.
Rebecca Bond grew up in the tiny village of Peacham in northeastern Vermont. When she is not having fun painting and writing, she is busy fixing up her old house in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston and spending time with her two young children. She is the author of several picture books and has illustrated one chapter ...
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Title:Escape from Baxters' BarnFormat:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 7.75 × 5.13 × 0.95 inPublished:July 7, 2015Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0544332172

ISBN - 13:9780544332171

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1 Ominous News   If Burdock had been obedient, the Baxter farmers’ secret would have remained a secret.   Though it was only late September, the first cold crisp of autumn had slunk in overnight. It drifted down through the northern forests, tiptoed across the farm fields, and settled soundlessly into the old house and barn and disheveled outbuildings that made up the Baxter farm.   Burdock was having none of this cold.   In the barn, the gray tiger cat with large, moplike mitts and just one eye had awoken stiff and crabby from sleeping in a tight knot. He decided to investigate the house for warmth.   This was his disobedience. For Burdock knew perfectly well he was strictly a barn cat. A barn cat, not a house cat, not even a sometimes-allowed-in-the-house barn cat. But Burdock loved warmth more than just about anything, and besides, he had no intention of getting caught.   Getting inside was easy enough to do.   Burdock slipped past the sleeping animals, steaming like teakettles, out the small hole in the barn doors into the early daylight. Cold! Quickly Burdock picked his way down the grassy path to the woodshed.   The woodshed, for winter convenience, was attached to the house and Burdock knew the shed’s loft had a broken windowpane that let out onto the roof. In the dimness of morning, the cat silently climbed the stairs to the loft and maneuvered through the gap onto the patchwork of grayed roof shingles.   From here, he surveyed the farm for a moment.   The house was a faded yellow affair with a pitched roof and a covered porch on two sides. The old windows sat loosely and slightly askew in their casings, and the house’s paint, especially on the west side, curled up in patches like birch bark. Behind the house was a small fenced-in vegetable garden. In front of the house, up a slight hill, were the barn and garage. And spreading out from that on three sides were pasturelands and hay fields, corn, and sunflowers.   Burdock looked beyond the open land, and it seemed like only trees. All the way to the horizon a dense forest grew, mainly pine and fir, but stippled too with swaths of hardwood.   Ah, there! As Burdock turned his head he saw just what he had hoped to see—a ribbon of smoke coming up from the chimney. And now in his eagerness he wanted to run but he didn’t dare; the roof was still slick with morning dew.   Burdock picked up his big paws and set them down carefully. One paw in front of the other, tail out for balance, like an apparition in the thin fog he crossed the ridgepole and reached the open upstairs bathroom window of the main house.   Quickly he hopped up to the sill, paused for a moment to listen, and dropped down onto the faded linoleum. He was in.   Oh warm! Inside, Burdock could smell the warmth before he felt it. He closed his one good eye, lifted his whiskered head, and sniffed: drying wool, bacon grease, and onions. And even on the landing at the top of the stairs, he could hear the gentle tick of the large cast-iron cookstove coming to life as it began to heat up. He crept down to the kitchen and curled into the toastiest spot.   As far back as he could remember, Burdock had never liked the cold. Born behind a post office to a stray mother cat, he was, unusually, the only kitten in the litter. Each night when his mother left to seek out food, Burdock burrowed into the newspapers in the old mail crate and tried to stay warm until she returned. Maybe if he’d had brothers or sisters it would have helped. It was hard to know. All he knew was that when he was wrapped in warmth, the world was put right.   ***   BANG!   Burdock was yanked from blissful sleep under the stove. The shed door snapped open, cracked hard against the inside wall, boots pounded in, then the door banged shut.   Instantly alert, Burdock crouched, ears up, eye wide, and gaped at the slice of kitchen he could see through the narrow frame of stove and floor.   The door flew open again. Another pair of boots pounded in. Burdock froze.   “You’re out of your MIND, Dewey!” yelled Grady. “You can’t do this.”   “Why not?” Dewey flung down his armload of firewood into the box beside the stove.   The terrific crash came so close, and was so surprisingly loud, Burdock instinctively leapt back. His claws scrabbled on the wood floor. Instantly he feared he’d be detected, but at the same time Dewey was shouting:   “Listen, Grady, what else are we gonna do? This farm is losing more money every single day and I don’t see as you’ve had any bright ideas! What makes you so sure it’s not gonna work?” Dewey swung back a boot and angrily kicked a large chunk of kindling.   “Because it’s completely crazy, Dewey! Could you just think a little here? This is a farm, for Pete’s sake! You’re a farmer, remember? You can’t just—”   Already Dewey had turned, was stomping away.   “Dang it, Dewey, listen! You can’t b—”   Dewey Baxter didn’t stay to hear what his brother shouted after him. Dewey wrenched open the shed door again, slammed it shut from the other side, and gave it a violent kick for good measure.   But Burdock heard every word Grady said. Hot as it was under the kitchen cookstove, the barn cat felt a shiver of ice.   2 Three Important Things   That evening, three important things happened at the same time.   1. Grady Baxter packed his bags, left a note on the kitchen table, and drove away from the farm.   2. The old mudroom radio broadcast plainly, “Storm advisory: Very heavy rains will be arriving Saturday from the southwest. Sustained gale-force winds expected across the listening region.”   3. Burdock gathered the animals in the barn and prepared to break the ominous news.   “What happened to you?” asked Figgy the pig. “Did you see a ghost?” Figgy’s snout poked through the slats of her pen and her intelligent eyes appraised Burdock solemnly.   The barn cat was generally untended, with bits of hay, sticks, and burrs snarled in his bushy fur. Not to mention that with only one eye (the other had healed closed), he always looked slightly askew. But his current state went beyond his usual cockeyed appearance and questionable grooming. He looked genuinely spooked.   “I’ll get to that,” answered Burdock. “Uh, is everybody here? I’ve got some news.”   Nanny, the cinnamon-colored goat, took initiative as usual. She too could tell by his expression that something was wrong. “Oh dear, Burdock. This doesn’t look good. Let me help.”   Nanny was a barn mother and liked to think that everyone could benefit from her crisp organization and kindly nature. She was good at it and beloved for it. But part of her wished she could be something grander than simply “Nanny.” What kind of a name was Nanny? Every female goat was a nanny goat. Once she confided to Figgy the pig that she’d like to be called “Victoria or Valora or, best of all, Gloria.” Something noble and brave. Figgy had laughed, lifted her snout in the air, and said, drawing out each syllable with precise and regal enunciation, “And do call me Queen Elizabeth!” and Nanny had laughed too.   Now Nanny hopped up on her hind legs, propped her front hooves on the middle rung of her pen, and peered over the top. As Burdock crouched down on the floor, Nanny gave him a concerned look, pausing for some moments to concentrate on him before she rallied everyone. It was unusual for everyone to come together like this, and Nanny wanted to do it properly.   “Okay everyone, let’s gather round,” announced the goat. “Burdock has something to say. I’ll take roll. Figgy Piggy?”   “Nanny!” snorted Figgy. “Of course I’m here! I’m standing right—”   “Okay, all right,” conceded Nanny. “Just going down the line. Fluff?”   “Oh, that’s me!” said the sheep, who did truly look like a mound of white fluff with a face.   “Mrs. Brown?”   “Present,” came the soft reply from Mrs. Brown. The old jersey milk cow lowered her huge, caramel eyes. A full barn meeting was unprecedented and made her nervous.   “All right, hon,” said Nanny. “Pull?”   “Right here,” came the molten voice of Pull, the enormous charcoal Shire draft horse. He shifted in his stall and swished at a fly with his tail.   “Tug?”   “As I live and breathe, I am here,” echoed his equally massive brother. Tug’s coat was dark brown, not as black, and his voice too was a shade lighter. And although both brothers weighed about the same (nearly two thousand pounds), Tug carried his tonnage with a hint of buoyancy and a twist of humor that Pull lacked.   “Tick?” asked Nanny.   “Here! Here I am!” Tick, Nanny’s kid buck, bounced up and down. Tick was white with russet-brown dapples, a black nose, and ears that canted forward as if always listening. He sprung up with such vigor he threatened to topple Nanny over, so eager was he to see into the barn’s central aisle and to hear about whatever the excitement was.   “With Burdock, that’s seven. And I make eight,” concluded Nanny. “We’re all accounted for. Okay, Burdock, sugar, whatever you have to tell us, floor’s yours.”   Slowly Burdock stood up. Everyone waited for him to explain.   But now Burdock felt daunted. Except for young Tick, Burdock remained the newest in habitant of the barn and he still wasn’t sure what his place here was or, really, if he had a rightful place. Who was he to speak up? What’s more, it was just such a staggering situation that he and the others were in. He couldn’t quite think where to begin. But he had to tell them, didn’t he?   “Go on, hon,” Nanny coaxed gently, “what is it?”   “Thing is,” Burdock started, “Dewey’s planning—Grady was—What I’m trying to say is I overheard something”—his voice lowered to a whisper—“I heard a terrible thing.”   Except for the old cow, Mrs. Brown, who took a step back, all the animals bent in just slightly closer.   Burdock glanced around at their intent faces.   “Spill, Burdock,” said Figgy the pig.   “It seems,” continued the cat, “that Dewey wants—that, that Dewey is—well, that Dewey intends to burn down our barn.”   There, he had said it. Burdock looked down at the worn boards of the barn floor burnished dark with age. Although the cat wasn’t much for aesthetics, right now the boards looked beautiful: all those whorls of pine grain, like rivulets of curling waves.   Burdock looked up. Everyone was staring at him.   “What?!” cried Figgy. “Wait! Start over!”   Figgy liked to get to the crux of things. She was a sharp thinker, a logical thinker, and this was illogical. Why would a farmer burn down his own barn?   “Now, from the beginning,” she said.   So Burdock explained how he had snuck inside and gone to sleep under the stove. He told how Dewey and Grady had come into the house shouting. He repeated the brothers’ argument as exactly as he could remember it. And he told how Dewey stormed out with Grady standing there yelling the terrible thing—“You can’t burn down the barn!”—after him.   “Of course,” said Burdock, “Grady didn’t know I was there. After Dewey left, I peeked out, and Grady looked awful. Made me realize Grady knew his brother meant it.”   Stunned, Nanny the goat opened her mouth to speak. It felt important to be reassuring, but she had no idea what to say.   “There’s something more,” Burdock said now.   “Oh boy,” said Fluff the sheep, breathless. “This is exciting!”   Figgy rolled her eyes.   “I stayed under the stove for a while,” continued Burdock. “I wanted to make sure I could get out without being seen, and just when it seemed all quiet I heard a car drive up and then a knock on the front door. I thought Dewey was outside, but he must have been in the den, because he came to the front and opened the door. From where I was, all I could see were Dewey’s boots and another man’s black shoes. The man with the shoes started to speak but Dewey yelled, ‘Go away! Leave us alone al ready! Don’t you have anything better to do?’ I don’t know where Grady was, but Dewey and this man argued awhile—it seemed to be about money, but I didn’t really understand—Dewey talking really loud, the other man just calm-calm, like nothing could rile him up, until finally the man left but said he’d be back.”   “Then what happened?” asked Figgy.   “That’s what I’m getting to,” said Burdock, easing himself back against a stall wall for support. “I heard Dewey say something to himself. He said, ‘It’s the only way out. The barn has to go.’”   “Mercy,” whispered the old Mrs. Brown, picking up her dusty hooves and withdrawing farther into her stall. “It’ll be the end of us!”   “Now, Mrs. Brown,” said big Pull in his steady, solid way. “Keep your hair on. Let’s think this through.”   Burdock could never get over just how big Pull was, yet still the horse seemed to have a kind of gentleness about him.   “Could be Dewey is all mouth and no trousers,” suggested Tug. “All vine and no taters.”   “It makes no sense,” said Nanny. “Does it, Figgy Piggy?”   “Mmmm,” said Figgy. She seemed to be staring at nothing, considering.   “Dewey wouldn’t,” whispered Tick, who had followed every bit of this discussion with fascination and fear. “He wouldn’t burn down the barn with us in it, would he, Mama?”   “Of course not,” said Nanny quickly, not looking at Tick.   “You know,” said Tug, “Dewey may be as sharp as marbles, but even so, why on earth would he burn down our barn?”   “He must have some reason for it,” said Pull, considering.   Figgy looked across the aisle at Pull and the unfocused gaze of her eyes narrowed now to a fine point. She looked determined.   “I don’t care what Dewey’s harebrained reason is,” she said, “the important thing to keep in mind is us. We can only assume we are running out of time.”   “Yes, we need to grab this nettle,” said Tug.   “Which means what?” asked Nanny.   “It means we need to take action; we need a plan,” translated Pull.   “Oh, then yes. Precisely,” said Nanny, mustering more confidence than she felt. “We need a plan.”   And so it was agreed among the barn animals that each would do some hard thinking, and they all would reassemble the next evening, same time, same place, with ideas.   ***   Later that night, as the wind tore leaves off the maples in the valley and the animals hunched in their pens listening, a creamy white form sailed down from the barn rafters, banked a perfect right turn, and glided soundlessly out the side window into the blackening sky.

Editorial Reviews

This sweet story with a serendipitous ending has a comforting, classic feel? Fans of Charlotte's Web and other gentle animal stories will enjoy this charming tale." -School Library Journal "The book offers an opportunity for young readers to increase their vocabulary, especially if read with parents or older siblings? The story is filled with clear lessons about the danger of jumping to conclusions, the joys of teamwork, and the importance of accepting one another's differences." -Booklist "In the tradition of Garth Williams's pen-and-ink barnyard images, Bond's energetically sketched b&w illustrations illuminate the animals' distinct dispositions as well as their communal courage and devotion." -Publishers Weekly "