Regular readers know that my tastes often run towards more serious subjects told in more realistic or allegorical ways. But sometimes I read an outrageously silly book that I can’t get out of my mind. And when the main character is a Cow on a day when I’m off to visit my daughter who simply adored cows as a child, how could I not feature this Perfect Picture Book:
Title: The Cow Who Climbed a Tree
Written & Illustrated By: Gemma Merino
Publisher/date: Albert Whitman & Company/2016 (UK: Macmillan Children’s Books/2015)
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: Cows, dreams, creative thinking, taking chances, being true to oneself
Opening: “Tina was a very curious cow. She had a thirst for discovery.”
Brief Synopsis: Tina the cow is an explorer, dreamer and science-lover, unlike her sisters who are happy to eat grass and live like cows. They don’t believe that Tina can climb a tree and has met a dragon until they learn otherwise.
Links to Resources:
- Create a cow tree-climbing game by completing this sentence: If a cow can climb a tree, then I can…; share what you can do, by charade gestures, drawing or otherwise showing your dream.
- Discuss what attributes enable some animals to climb trees; what keeps others from climbing them? What can cows do that other animals can’t do?
- Discuss other impossible things and inventions, including famous scientists and inventors and famous female inventors.
Why I Like this Book: This is a silly book – everyone knows that cows can’t climb trees, right? Just like we know that cars can’t map routes, that people can’t walk on the moon or float in space for months, and that grandparents can’t read bedtime stories to kids on the other side of the world. Right?
Cows climbing trees may seem silly now, but who knows, someday it may happen. And even if not, I love the spunk Tina exhibits and her dreaming, risk taking, and plucky determination to push boundaries to achieve the impossible. I also love that this female-centric, dare-to-dream story is such a great conversation starter about following dreams and reaching for the impossible. And all packaged in a dream-like landscape of soft, watercolor trees and forest.
A Note about Craft:
We talk about kid-appeal and kid-centric writing quite a bit. I think Ms. Merino nailed it here: who but a kid would think up a story about a cow climbing a tree. Like our own kids who may have or had imaginary friends or a fear of a “bogey man”, this premise is entirely plausible…to a kid or someone with a kid’s perspective. Ms. Merino presents it in a very matter-of-fact way. By changing just a few words of the opening, it would read like a biography (e.g., Marie Curie was a very curious girl. She had a thirst for discovery.). The dreamy illustrations that accompany the matter-of-fact story elevate the story to one that will make kids and adults alike wonder whether this may be a dream of the future after all.
Gemma Merino won the 2016 London Evening Standard’s Oscars Book Prize for The Cow Who Climbed a Tree.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!