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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Chicken, Pig, Cow
Chicken, Pig, Cow
written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Annick Press,(September 2008)
Chicken, Pig, and Cow lived in a Popsicle-stick barn that Girl made. They loved their barn. It was warm and cozy and smelled just right.
The only thing that wasn't exactly perfect lived outside.
His name was Dog.
Dog was way too big.
He was even bigger than Cow.
And Dog drooled.
"I thought it didn't rain indoors," said Chicken.
--Chicken, Pig, Cow by Ruth Ohi, p. 2-4.
Chicken, Pig, Cow is a warm, sweet story with great humor that captures a child's imagination.
Chicken, Pig, and Cow are toys that live in a Popsicle-stick barn a young girl created. They love it there, and think it's perfect--aside from the dog that drips drool on them. But one day when the girl's gone out, Chicken and Pig climb out, leaving Cow who can't--and then Dog comes to play. At first Cow's afraid of Dog, but in the end they all become friends.
I love the way Ohi writes as if the toys are alive and can do things on their own--the way young children imagine they might. Chicken, Pig, Cow has a playful child-like quality and innocence. There's also a great warmth and a soothing quality about the story, which comes through Ohi's word choices ("warm and cozy an smelled just right") and voice, as well as through her sweet illustrations.
Ohi weaves humor throughout the story. The humor feels fresh and young, the way a child might think (though adults may read some of the humor as dry humor) "'I thought it didn't rain indoors,' said Chicken", when the dog was drooling on them. Ohi also uses exaggeration as humor "Cow fainted" (in response to seeing dog). The humor works beautifully, and adds to the good feeling. I loved the humor.
Young children may enjoy knowing that there is no threat to Cow, even though Cow thinks there is. It will be clear to the child from the text that Dog is friendly and wants to play, from his wagging tail, his lying down, and his wrapping his body around cow. Ohi's illustrations also reflect this.
The dialogue is short, interesting, and helps move the story forward quickly. The story moves nicely from cozy situation, to problem, to solving the problem. Characters are simply called by what they are (the cow is Cow, the girl is Girl) and this may help readers to more easily relate to the characters and identify them.
One thing that didn't work for me was suddenly being told close to the end that Dog had made a door in the barn. I wanted to see the door being made--the Popsicle sticks flying off, hear about cow's reaction. Surely cow would have noticed. The absence of the mention when it happened took away, for me, some of the satisfaction of the ending, since the new door was part of that ending.
I also would have liked to see a sentence or two more that showed us the friendship that developed between Cow, Pig, and Chicken, and Dog, and how it came about, instead of just being told that they became friends. (I didn't think they were becoming friends, exactly, when they were trying to save Cow.) But the book still left me with good feeling.
Overall, the story is pleasing, warming, and sweet. It's a book I'd give any child, and especially one needing comfort or uplifting.
Ohi's gentle illustrations build on and enhance the text. The soft watercolor feels warm and soothing, and the rounded curves of the characters add to this feeling. The characters are sweetly colored, and stand out on the page; Cow is white with purple spots and has a pink snout, pig is pink, and chicken is yellow with orange feet, beak, and comb. The browns--found in the Popsicle-stick barn and Dog, feel warm.
The characters don't just look like toys, they look like little animated creatures. They remind me a bit of Sandra Boyton's illustrations. They're cute and appealing to look at.
The illustrations feel light and airy, which is increased by the amount of white space on each page, and the lack of backgrounds. Characters appear with a few necessary setting details or with a small bit of shadow to ground them on the page; this ensures that the focus is on them. The shadows are a light purple, which reminds the reader of Cow, who is an important character.
There is a bonus illustration in the front matter shows the girl creating the animals out of modeling clay, revealing that the girl brought them to life in more ways than one. This adds to the story, and is fun for the reader to discover.
This is a light-hearted, warm, feel-good book. Highly recommended!
-Added September 16, 2008
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