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'The Cow That Laid an Egg'

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[September 24, 2008]  "The Cow That Laid an Egg," by Andy Cutbill, illustrated by Russell Ayto, HarperCollins Publishers, 30 pages, age appropriateness may vary

Review by
Louella Moreland

Did the title of the story grab your attention? "The Cow That Laid an Egg" delivers as many laughs as the title!

Its real message, though, is a subtler one. That is the reason I would caution parents that the reading age of this book might vary. First of all, the child needs to have mastered the concept of reality versus fiction. If a reader is confused about chickens laying eggs and cows giving birth, the story isn't funny and can be confusing to a child trying to sort out his or her world.

In Mr. Cutbill's imaginative story, Marjorie the Cow is "down in the dumps" because she cannot do what ordinary cows do. Of course the ordinary cows on this farm are far from ordinary, riding bicycles and doing handstands. The chickens decide to hatch a plan (pun intended) to help her out. Most readers will be able to predict that the chickens are responsible for the cow-spotted egg that appears one morning. Chaos ensues, with reporters, newspapers and visitors becoming involved in spreading news of this miraculous occurrence. Marjorie is ecstatic, but what will happen when the egg hatches?

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Although the story line may not be a completely new concept, the illustrations that coordinate with the text are new and inventive. Mixed media, bold colors, bulging eyes, squared-off bodies and unusual juxtapositions feed the eyes with stimulation. The two-page spread of Marjorie being interviewed needs a lengthy viewing. I loved the camera-head photographers, toothy grins and interesting transports! However, my favorite illustration was the chicken coop. After all, you must admit a purple-striped or polka-dot chicken is not seen in every farmyard. Even the endpapers add a special touch to the story with their big, black spots on a wide, white background.

It is the message that resounds the longest, though. What is a parent? Will the baby be a chicken as the cows predict? After all, everyone obviously knows that it is impossible for a cow to lay an egg. Which will win out, nature or nurture? My heart must agree with Mr. Cutbill, the baby must be a cow!

Many may remember the Dr. Seuss take on this subject with another of my favorite stories, "Horton Hatches an Egg." This story is, of course, a retelling of that one, with less text and content, but its new twists and especially its inventive illustrations make this a worthwhile, fresh read for young ones who enjoy a little ridiculous humor with their stories.

To check out both books, come in to the Lincoln Public Library Annex, 725 Pekin St. You tell us which you enjoy more.

[Text from file received from Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public Library District]

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