August 17, 2006


A Particular Cow. By Mem Fox. Illustrated by Terry Denton. Harcourt. $16.

Piggies: Book and Musical CD. By Don and Audrey Wood. Illustrated by Don Wood. Harcourt. $17.95.

     In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe, a member of the House of Lords sings approvingly of the fact that, during the Napoleonic War, his colleagues “did nothing in particular, and did it very well.”  That’s also a pretty good description of what happens in Mem Fox’s hilarious A Particular Cow, where one cow in particular takes a particular walk on a particular day and a number of particular things happen.  By the time the cow has become trapped in a particular pair of underwear, rolled down a particular hill in a particular postman’s cart, made a complete mess of a particular wedding, and ended up almost upending a particular boat, kids ages 3-7 will be laughing their particular heads off.  So will parents lucky enough to read this particular book to or with their children.  By simply using the word “particular” again and again as absurd situations pile up, Fox makes things particularly ridiculous.  And Terry Denton helps matters along with particularly appropriate drawings, filled with action and color and utter silliness of a particularly harmless type.  By the time this particular cow returns to her particular barn, kids will be clamoring to find out what in particular happens the next time she goes on a morning stroll.  Parents will have to make that story up on their own – or wait to see if Fox and Denton create a sequel to this charming book.

     Piggies, also for ages 3-7, is charming, too, and it is also rather weird and quite musical: an included CD offers seven songs that explore elements of Don and Audrey Wood’s text.  That text simply takes the “this little piggy” idea several steps further than the old nursery rhyme does, imagining that each finger really has a little piggy on top of it.  There are two fat piggies, two smart ones, two long ones, two silly ones and two wee ones.  Actually, they are all silly in their own ways, thanks to Don Wood’s adorable drawings: one fat piggy wears a top hat and carries an umbrella, one smart one has a telescope, one silly one is an upside-down clown, and so on.  Each page shows a left or right hand, with that hand’s piggies doing all sorts of silly things: eating watermelon or wearing a cactus costume when it’s hot, skiing or having snowball fights when it’s cold, playing with bubbles in the bathtub, and so on.  The piggies’ antics – which at one point include getting really, really dirty – are highly inventive, and the final kisses goodnight (with the two hands together, so each piggy finger kisses its opposite number) are really clever.  So are the songs, which brightly and bouncily introduce the piggies and sing about what they do when they are hot, cold, clean, dirty and more.  The book-and-CD combination adds to the many pleasures of what is already a very pleasurable, rather offbeat story.

No comments:

Post a Comment