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In 2016, author Dan McKernan, star of the Animal Planet series Saved by the Barn, took over his family’s 140-year-old farm in Chelsea, Mich. He transformed it into a sanctuary for farm animals that had experienced abuse and neglect. Now Barn Sanctuary, as it is called, is home to more than 100 rescued farm animals. 

In this gentle, compassionate fictional picture book, young children are introduced to some of Barn Sanctuary’s animal characters. Mike the cow, Little Dude the pig, Ginger the lamb, and Twitch and Steve the goats are thrilled when Farmer Dan tells them the exciting news that a new cow named Buttercup is arriving that day. The animals think of ways to be welcoming: throw a party, have an egg hunt, snuggle with Buttercup, or tickle her. 

However, nothing goes as planned. Despite the animals’ best efforts to be friendly, Buttercup is grumpy and angry. The animals are perplexed. Is Buttercup just mean? The animals decide to stay away from Buttercup and stop trying to be kind to her.  

However, one day, little Dude decides to sneak to Buttercup’s stall and watch her. But to his surprise, Buttercup is gone. What happens next sets the animals’ relationship on a healing and healthy course as the reason for Buttercup’s actions is revealed. Peace and harmony are restored on the farm. The comforting reality is that, at Barn Sanctuary, the animals are a family, and families help each other through good times and difficult circumstances. 

Illustrator Denise Hughes’s delightful depiction of the farm animals and their varied emotions as they unravel the mystery of Buttercup’s behavior complement author Dan McKernan’s kind-hearted narrative. (Zonderkidz)

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