Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Friday, November 11, 2011

Now This Is One Cool Cow...

You can't judge a book by its cover but it will definitely get your attention.  It's not everyday, in fact it's almost never, that you will find a cow that covets the cold.  But that is exactly what the cow craves in Chilly Milly Moo, the picture book debut for English author/illustrator, Fiona Ross.

Digital illustrations very much appearing like woodcut prints drew me to this title; that and the color palette.  The pink in Milly Moo's ears, mouth and udder are metallic letters in the title and a bold blush on the endpapers.  It is that splash of rosiness among the subdued shades of barn and field browns, blacks, subtle greens and blues that hints at the upcoming hilarity. 

Ross's use of the large cartoon eyes on her characters conveys a range of emotions in a single glance, a shift in a look.  Moods change with a simple change in the line around her cows' mouths or the farmer's face.  And those tails, a single line with a tuft on the end, are quirky cuteness. 

Most of the illustrations are spread across double pages providing Ross the perfect canvas for her unique, textured visuals.  Her choice of displaying text in thought or speech bubbles, along the top or bottom of a page, among the bricks, walls or floors of the barn lend a realistic, warmth to the story.  My favorite picture is of the rather large backside of the farmer sitting on a stool bent over attempting to milk Milly Moo; all we can see of her is four stick legs tuft of tail and a small part of her body in a narrow line front to back.  Text is shown on her body, across the bottom of the farmer and written on the floor boards.

Word choice, Milly Moo, glum, nope, zilch, nada, diddly-squat, gurgle, gargle, bubble, babble and big freeze add to the sheer enjoyment of this tale as well as providing tension leading to the comic conclusion.  While narration is used sparingly it conveys enough to fully engage readers.

Milly Moo is not happy; she is too hot!  She can not produce milk.  She wants to have the the finest, loveliest, tastiest, creamiest milk.  But wanting and doing are two different things.  The farmer won't keep her if she won't make milk.  Teasing  and laughing from the other cows is not helping either.  Awakening from a dream about what happens to cows with no milk, Milly Moo finds that the weather has turned; a storm is blowing in bringing the icy cold.  With the farmer arriving at the barn in the wee hours of the morn we read: 

"This is your last chance, Milly Moo,"  he said.  "Let's have one last try!"  The farmer squeezed and squeezed and squeezed...

The explosive surprise ending will have readers rolling around on the floor (I'm still laughing).  Never was the message that we all have gifts, that specialness comes in the most unexpected ways, presented so cleverly as in Chilly Milly Moo.  Brr...where's my hat, mittens and boots?

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