The moon is a sliver of ice melting in the sky when Papa wakes me for work. So begins Barn Savers, a simple story of a young boy coming to understand the labor that his father does and the value of a hard day's work, a job well done.
The boy accompanies his father to work for the first time and learns his trade. They rise before dawn, pack their lunches and tools, and drive as the sun comes up over the hills. Their destination is a fading red barn in the middle of a wheat field. Their job is to save the barn from the bulldozers, and they save everything from the actual boards and windows to the date stone that reads 1893. Even an old pig trough is important enough to keep. The boy and his father salvage these seemingly mundane things for the sake of preserving the past and honoring history.
The illustrations play a vital role they paint the setting in soft splashes of pastels and in bolder primary colors. The rich red of the barn contrasts with the blue of the sky, and yellow drops of sunlight filter through the holes in the barn roof. These colors enhance the pastoral world the author creates the world of passing rural life, of a slower pace, that father and son are struggling to hold onto.
Yet there is a deeper level on which to read the story, a deeper truth to be learned, as there almost always is. Beauty is found within an object, not on the outside. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince, What is essential is invisible to the eye. The father in this tale does not save the barns for the monetary value of the boards; he saves them for their sentimental value, for the charm of something old. He says, This barn will live for another hundred years, in a hundred different places. And he passes that legacy on to his son. The boy saves a part of the old barn, a rusty old weather vane, for his own bedroom. He too has learned to appreciate the character that comes with age.