Book: I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!
Author: Jill Esbaum
Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Age Range: 3-5
I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! by Jill Esbaum and Gus Gordon is the story of a cow named Nadine who claims not to be afraid of anything, not even the dark, overgrown n woods. When Nadine's friends call her on her bluff ("just to prove it, let's go"), she discovers that she DOES like the woods. Well, during the day, at least. But when she ends up alone in the woods at night, the reader certainly sees that Nadine isn't so brave. When Nadine emerges unscathed, she neglects to tell anyone else that she wasn't, in fact, a hero. By the end of the book, despite Nadine's fears, the other animals are advertising "Sunset Tours" from "Brave Nadine."
I suppose there's a bit of an implied message in I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! to the effect that one must be careful about bragging of capabilities that do not exist, as one may be called upon to demonstrate said abilities. But Nadine never actually learns this lesson, which makes I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! fall on the side of straight-up funny. Esbaum's rhyming text is enjoyable to read aloud, and sometimes laugh-out-loud humor. Like this:
""Well, moooove it, Nadine,"
Starla gave her a nudge.
"Lead on!" urged Annette.
Still, Nadine didn't budge.
She blinked at the woods.
Dark as night.
Were there creatures in there,
and ... did they bite?
Her milk nearly curdled.
Doubt prickled her skin.
But what choice did she have?
Nadine gulped and stepped in."
The bit about "her milk nearly curdled" made me snort. And this, late in the book:
"A hero? Egad. Nadine knew she was not,
and she wanted to say so, but ... sorta forgot."
A flawed heroine who does not learn her lesson. I love it! I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! is full of sound effects and fun words and laughs large and small. Gordon's illustrations, "created using watercolor, pencils, crayons, and collage" add fun details to reward close reading. On the second page, Nadine is reading "Fire Breathing got Bovines." When she is scared, her eyes are huge and round.
The collage aspect of the illustrations works especially well, as various portions of the pictures are shown with unusual textures, like silos that seem to be cut out of graph paper, and a pine tree crudely made out of taped together green rippled fabric (or paper, or something).
I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! is read-aloud friendly and humorous, with a distinctive illustration style. I think that it will work best for preschooler, kids old enough to appreciate the humor, and young enough to accept the absurdities of the story without question. Recommended for group read-aloud, though probably a better fit for one-on-one parent/child reading, where one can look at the illustrations in detail, and perhaps discuss how Nadine ended up in trouble. This is a fun one!
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: May 15, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own.
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