When a tornado leaves a farmer with a heap of scrap metal and no animals, his neighbors are sure it's all over for him. But the determined farmer refuses to admit defeat. His plans are big, and when his neighbors dismiss them with the words, "When pigs fly," they grow bigger still. The farmer sets to work to turn that scrap metal into some rather surprising creatures. Mechanimals will help all of us believe in our dreams, despite what the neighbors may say.
There once was a farmer who had lots of animals that got swept away by a tornado." So begins this visually arresting but emotionally vacant tale of a resourceful farmer who builds new "livestock" out of machine parts. Despite being "very sad" that his original chicks and sheep are gone (he doesn't wonder where they went, and they don't come back), the farmer sets to sketching and welding an alarm-clock rooster to greet the day. A "cow-bot," a milking machine strapped to its udder, uses gas pumps to distribute both fuel and "great chocolate milk." A "horse-bot" hauls scrap ("Holy horsepower!") and a rocket-boosted "pig-bot" puts paid to the neighbors' expression "when pigs fly!" (readers, apparently, are supposed to overlook the airborne pig of the tornado incident). Sketching in soft gray pencil on a clay-yellow wash, Tougas (the Wacky Farm board books) creates backdrops of barnyard and junkyard detritus. He uses crisp ink outlines and brighter watercolors to foreground the "mechanimals," which recall Alan Snow's dog and cat cross-sections. But once the patchwork animal-bots are constructed and the farmer's friends gaze at them fondly, the story ends. Tougas confounds logic by suggesting that a chick-bot beats a real chicken, trusting that readers won't think too hard about the actual purpose of a farm. Ages 4-8.