Archive for Sunday, November 5, 2000

Typing cows make demands in Cronic’s tale

November 5, 2000


Ag school will never be the same.

"Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type," written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, matches cultivated bovines with collective bargaining and produces a story everybody can agree on.

Cronin's classy action story begins when Farmer Brown's cows find a typewriter in the barn. Soon the cows start leaving notes for Farmer Brown. It seems they have a few concerns they'd like management to address.

Farmer Brown can't believe his cows can type, let alone the fact that they want electric blankets at night. He starts whipping out memos of his own, refusing to cave in to their worker demands. Of course, Farmer Brown never envisioned there might be a production problem. The cows withhold their milk. The hens stop laying eggs in support. And the rest of the barnyard takes a keen interest in this unusual story of labor relations and supply and demand.

Cronin has crafted a quick and clever tale for youngsters aged 3 to 7 that has a wonderful surprise ending. While never losing its sense of humor, "Click, Clack, Moo" (Simon & Schuster, $15) shows young ones there are alternatives for handling disputes.

The illustrations by Lewin are just as worthy. Rich brush strokes deftly fill the page with color and a story of their own. Cronin's humorous tale is magnified by Lewin's smart interpretations.

I find "Click, Clack, Moo" to be a luminous meditation on mediation, but you can judge for yourself.

Halloween is past, but the world of spooks still has its icy grip on some eager readers. "Cinderella Skeleton," written by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by David Catrow, may be the tale they need to quench their thirst for the gruesome.

The rhyming story follows the Cinderella plot line familiar to all fairy tale lovers. But the similarity ends there. For instead of a beautiful maid as main character, San Souci and Catrow give readers the skeleton girl (yes, you can be too thin). The fairy godmother is instead the good witch of the woods. A jack-o'-lantern becomes a funeral wagon to take her to the ball. Bats become the footmen.

San Souci's tale, for youngsters aged 3 to 7, is creepily creative, though at times tough for even the most seasoned adults to read aloud. Catrow is the one who rises from the grave with his devilishly detailed illustrations. The rich, hypnotic images are at times both charming and repulsive.

"Cinderella Skeleton" (Harcourt, $16) is a post-Halloween scream.

Recent reports have armadillos coming into Kansas, and you'd better believe it.

"Armadillo Tattletale," written by Texans Helen Ketteman and illustrated by Keith Graves, tells the unusual story of an armadillo that has trouble with the truth.

It seems that in the beginning, a long time ago, the armadillo had ears as tall as a jackrabbit's and as wide as a steer's horns. But they didn't do right by him. They slow him down, get him messy and let him hear things he isn't supposed to hear private conversations. Armadillo also has a tough time keeping his tongue from wagging in less than honest ways. He can't seem to resist twisting the words of other animals into hurtful insults.

Of course, the deeds come back to haunt him on more than one occasion. It's the alligator, who gives armadillo the harsh punishment that forces him to change his ways.

Ketteman's tale bounces along with both innovation and repetition, while Graves' vibrant paintings provide a visual spark to match the story.

"Armadillo Tattletale" is $15.95 from Scholastic Press.

Jill Hummels is the mother of Haley, 8, and Tess, 7.

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