Doreen Cronin's Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Caldecott Honor illustrations by Betsy Lewin
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Author-illustrator team cooks up inspired zaniness
My one rap against the hugely successful Cronin-Lewin team's first book is that parents may enjoy it even more than their kids.
You see, "Farmer Brown has a problem." The cows found a typewriter in the old barn, and they like to use it. They can now express themselves in a way that Farmer Brown can understand. (He doesn't speak Moo.)
The cows aren't happy with labor conditions on the farm. They want electric blankets.
Well, Farmer Brown isn't going to be the only farmer to give his cows electric blankets just because they know how to type. So he refuses. And they go on strike.
"Sorry," they type. "We're closed. No milk today."
And then, sympathizing with some of the other workers on the farm, they inform Brown that the hens want blankets too.
Farmer Brown delivers an angry but empty ultimatum. The cows offer to trade the typewriter for the blankets. Brown agrees. Duck, acting as a labor negotiator, is to handle the exchange, which is starting to feel more like a ransom.
The cows and hen get their blankets. Duck keeps the typewriter. Farmer Brown soon receives a note.
The pond is quite boring. We'd like a diving board.
(If you suspect a sequel or five, you're right.)
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Now, some of this action is funnier to adults than kids. You'll find yourself explaining the concept of a "strike" and perhaps that real workers sometimes find themselves at odds with real bosses.
Having to explain a book is fine. From your child's point of view, we call that, "learning."
The story is a riot, but it's the illustrations that won a Caldecott Honor for Betsy Lewin. Her watercolors of wide-eyed cows (they look like they can't believe they're actually doing this), stubborn hens and frustrated Farmer Brown would have you and your kids laughing even without the text.
As mentioned, these wonderful characters have gone on to star in still more crazy books:
Cronin and Lewin also teamed up on the absolutely wonderful Diary of a Worm (reviewed on this site) and its sequels.
Publishers Weekly loved Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. I suspect you will too.
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