I’m never going to listen to Helen Reddy’s anthem to woman-power in the same way again.
From best-selling author Jill Esbaum and illustrator Gus Gordon (the author behind the delightful Herman and Rosie) comes a new breed of superhero – Nadine the Cow, in the funny, brave rhyming romp, I Am Cow Hear Me Moo!.
Nadine claims she is afraid of nothing, boasting to her bovine friends that lightning, loud noises, rats and even the deep, dark woods don’t bother her. In fact, Nadine was a ‘truly remarkable cow’.
Full of bravado, Nadine suggests that the cows visit the woods and their adventure is filled with fun and new discoveries. However night soon falls and Nadine’s friends are desperate to return to the farm. A few wrong turns and Nadine finds herself all alone, and not feeling quite so brave after all.
At first glance, the main theme of this story is courage. However, it’s a little more sophisticated than just that. Nadine the Cow highlights the difference between bravado and courage and the conclusion demonstrates how other people’s (or cows) expectations and opinions of you can affect your own behaviour. It’s an interesting message for a picture book given that we spend a lot of time telling children not to worry about what others think or say but to do their own thing.
So how does Esbaum, Gordon and Nadine the Cow pull it off? Esbaum’s clever words and Gordon’s terrific illustrations reveal Nadine’s true feelings to the reader, leaving them in no doubt that Nadine is putting on a brave face –
“Her milk nearly curdled.
Doubt prickled her skin.
But what choice did she have?
Nadine gulped and stepped in.”
Special mention must be made of Gordon’s remarkable illustrations, a mix of watercolours, pencil, crayons and collage. Huge double-page spreads alternate with pages featuring multiple sequences. The approach is clever, building tension and highlighting the climaxes, as well as adding to Nadine’s bluster.
I Am Cow Hear Me Moo! is suitable for children aged four years and over. Find it at all good book shops and online at Fishpond.