Moo! By David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

moo

This book has five words in it.  Five.  The plot is driven by four words: “moo” and “Car for Sale”.

And if you have any imagination at all, that should tell you everything you need to know about this clever (and ridiculous) book.

moo moo moo
And for those of you who don’t have an imagination…

There are a few things you should probably know about the morality of the tale:

  • No, the cow does not legally purchase the vehicle.
  • The cow also does not appear to have a license to drive the vehicle, or any real talent at driving.
  • The cow gets into trouble because of both of these things.  With the cops.
  • The cops do not fine, ticket, jail, reprimand, or otherwise do anything other than look cross.
  • The cow is, when all is said and done, an unrepentant thief and a liar (spoiler: She blames the sheep.  For everything).

You may feel that these points are too subtle for a baby and who cares?  Because this book is hilarious.  Or maybe you feel that your baby should not be exposed to these kinds of shenanigans at such a tender age.  The book is still hilarious.  Mike Wohnoutka’s illustrations bring the MOOs and moos and moo-moo-moos to life (aside: Wohnoutka.  What a great name.  As one of the character’s said in Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, a solid name).  Our heroine is alternately content, curious, thrilled, surprised, terrified, guilty, chastised, and downtrodden.  And although her expressions are not always so different from each other (happy Moo! looks a lot like thrilled Moooooooooooooo; Moo-moo looks a lot like frantic explanation Moo moo! Moo moo-moo moo!), the body language is generally sufficiently expansive that our little guy understands what the cow is trying to express.  And let’s face it – how expressive can you reasonably expect a bovine to be?

Admittedly, Moo! is not the best book for teaching a kid how to read words other than, well, “moo”.  But it is still a great early literacy tool (how do I know?  David LaRochelle’s website told me so in its teaching guide and link to other groups using this book).

Um…wait.  This book only has five words (and mostly just uses one).  So why does it have a teaching guide?  Well, I read the teaching guide, and it seems aimed at older children (i.e. ones that can talk and reason) and I’m not sure why you would want to teach them using Moo!  I guess I just have to wait until I have a small child so that I can be more in-the-know about child literacy and development.

In the meantime, however, I can promo this book for babies (an age group I know something about).  Apparently, babies can recognize emotions in voices (ex. happy, unhappy, neutral) by the time they are seven months old.  Six-to-twelve months is considered a good time to start actually looking at picture books with a baby.  The perfect age for a Moo! board book.

And what about after 12-months?  Let me tell you – our 18-month-old LOVES this book.  He turns the pages and points at the word…and he doesn’t say “moo” (he’s not very good at M’s) but he does act like he is reading what is going on.  His tone of voice changes with every page.  And he laughs at the surprises and escapades that this silly cow gets into.  He points (with concern) at the pictures near the end of the book where the Car For Sale sits no longer.  Sure, he’s probably only laughing because I’m smiling.  Sure, he’s probably only imitating the tones of voice that I use when I read the book to him.  Sure, he may not actually have recognized that (spoiler) the car went missing because the cow crashed it and failed to return it (although, at this point, he’s supposed to be able to draw conclusions from things unseen).  The point is, he enjoys it and he’s learning.  He’s learning to vary tone of voice, he’s learning about emoting and emotion…since multiple people read to him, he’s learning how different people express the same emotion.

I feel like that’s a lot of learning packed into one little book.  And maybe, just maybe, by the end of the month, he’ll recognize the letters M and O.

Rating: A.  A solid, fun book.  Not necessarily a “must have”, but definitely up there.

Reading Ages: Very wee to kind of wee.  I have a feeling that after 3, the novelty would wear off.

Favourite  cow-expression:  When the cow is driving the car over hill and dale.  She just looks so thrilled.

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