This is the first novel for children by Brooks about the Bean farm animals. Later, Freddy the Pig took the spotlight, but at first it was an ensemble cast with no single leader. The book was originally titled “To And Again,” and published in 1927 with different (and not nearly as good) illustrations. It was reissued in 1949 with Wiese illustrations to match all the other ones he’d done. The text of the book is the same. The Bean farm animals are essentially people in animal guise, though they retain their basic animal natures and habits as well. They talk to each other as people do, and in very entertaining ways, but in the early books they don’t ever talk to humans.
The story begins on a chilly fall morning with Charles the rooster grumbling about having to get up so early to crow and wake Mr. Bean, who is too poor to afford an alarm clock. In talking to a swallow living in the barn about how swallows and many birds migrate to warmer places in the winter, Charles decides the farm animals should do the same thing. He calls a meeting, and a group of animals agree it’s a fine idea, and soon they’ve set off for Florida, where they hope to spend a pleasant winter. Along the way they encounter men who want to catch and sell them, and other hazards of travel they must overcome, including getting through towns and over wide rivers. News of their trip has spread somehow, and when they reach the outskirts of Washington D.C., they’re met by congressmen from their state who offer to give them a tour of Washington and a chance to meet the President. Later, when they do reach Florida, things don’t go so well, as you might guess from the cover picture.
This entire series is charming and fun to read. Brooks was a wise student of human and animal nature, and his stories are a delight. Recommended.