Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
“Fixing Nick” is a great children's book about teamwork and cooperation! How many things can all of these cute, wonderful animals accomplish when they work together toward a common goal? In this case, their barn (and home), personified with the name Nick, is in disrepair and is falling apart. This not only affects the barn but the farmer and all of his animals! The team of barn animals including cows, a mouse, sheep, sheep dog, horse, pig, and others band together to try to fix it. It's very cute and very exciting! We found ourselves inevitably rooting for each and every animal to have their big moment and to play a part in this huge undertaking. You could even argue that the goat, who is the biggest cynic and doesn't physically help to fix the barn, still motivates the other animals who know that the goat's plight (being cold) is something they all share if the barn isn't repaired.
What's extra interesting about reviewing this book is that we have an exact point of comparison with the book we just reviewed: “Chesapeake Nursery Rhyme” by Kay Swann-Gregor. In that book, while the animals were absolutely adorable, compelling, and interesting, their actual functions within the ecosystem weren't really explored. Yes, the beavers built and the blue crabs cleaned, but the other animals just seemed to want to goof off and play. In this book, every single animal seems to have a specific function, role, and/or task. They all play an important part in the story. Duke, the border collie, uses his adept communication skills to tell the other farm animals about the barn's condition. The pigs and sheep find and gather supplies for the repair while the horse helps to transport these supplies. The chickens mend the roof. The goose cleans the stalls. And they all help to repaint the barn.
Something else the author is able to do is give some of these non-human characters personalities. For example, Duke, the border collie, is very conscientious. We know this from his concern about the barn potentially being sold by the farmer. You can see the concern on Duke's face. The goat is very cynical and pessimistic, giving up on repairing the barn and wanting to live in a newer one instead. You can constantly see that the goat frowns upon the idea of fixing and living in the barn. His face is frequently in a scowl. Furthermore, the barn itself is well portrayed. The artist uses Nick's windows as eyes and his door as a mouth to portray emotions like being concerned, suffering, relieved, and eventually elated upon being fixed. That takes great tact.
The art is more “wonky” and less realistic than Swann-Gregor's book, which portrayed animals generally how they would look in nature with some embellishments like smiles and cuter features. This book has a very interesting look and feel to it. It almost looks like it could've been colored by the kids who are likely reading this themselves using crayons or color pencils. It's subjective, but we did like the more realistic and refined appearance of the animals in Swann-Gregor's book. That book is just so much more appealing to look at. There are times when the animals in this book actually don't look very inviting or friendly. The goat is the primary example. There's something about the scowling expression that he often has that can be off-putting, but then again parents and teachers can use this as a prompt to ask children how they think the goat feels.
Parents and teachers can also point out that some other creatures find the barn to be their home like a ladybug, a spider, a caterpillar who often show up. It can be fun for them to point this out.
This is a solid, well-rounded children's book about an important subject in teamwork!
Check it out on Amazon!