Newbery Award medalist Paul Fleischman is one of the most original and talented authors of our time. In his heartwarming tale, The Animal Hedge, he draws on memories of his childhood in Santa Monica, California, where he often walked past a row of shrubs that had been trimmed into animal shapes.

Accompanied by rich, detailed watercolor and gouache illustrations by Russian-born artist Bagram Ibatoulline, The Animal Hedge tells the story of a farmer whose heart glowed with the love of animals "like a hot wood stove." He and his three sons pass their days in work and song, until drought hits, forcing them to sell their land and the animals they love and move to a tiny cottage surrounded by a hedge. Although the land eventually recovers when rain falls, the farmer is sad. With no money left, he has no hope of recovering his farm. All he can do is clip the bushes around the cottage into the shapes of his beloved cows, chickens and pigs. Over time, the animal hedge becomes many things. It keeps the farmer from feeling lonely and helps each son find his proper calling in the world. When the oldest son asks what he should do, his father advises him to watch the hedge and, seemingly like magic, it takes the shape of a horse-drawn carriage. And so the son leaves home to become a coachman. In just the same way, the hedge grows into the shape of a ship for the second son, and a fiddler for the youngest. The boys are puzzled as to how the hedge can choose so well for them, but they set out to make their fortunes.

Time passes. When the farmer's sons return home, successful and happy, they realize how this wonderful hedge has always reflected their deepest desires and they set out to fulfill their father's own dreams. Perfect for story time, this richly illustrated, lyrical book is sure to delight young readers. And who knows? Perhaps the next time their parents pick up some trimmers and head for the yard, something wonderful will emerge from the bushes.

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