A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Add to that amusement, the fact I am an animal rights enthusiast, and this is a story about cows demanding better conditions, (they’re demanding electric blankets, but that falls within the remit of “better conditions”, surely) and I’m going to like it even more.
And in addition to that lot, this reader is also a feminist, predisposed to cheer on the story’s female milker cows who are fighting the good fight for workplace improvements under the oppressive mantle of capitalism and patriarchy, and here we have a book that could have been tailor made to impress me.
But did it impress?
Why, yes it did. And I am evidently not alone in that, because Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type is an award-winning picture book that was named one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Firstly, the illustrations are both comical and beautiful, with thick black outlines and vibrant watercolour washes. Secondly, the experience of reading the story aloud is enjoyable; no tongue-twisters or plodding prose here. As one would expect, “Click, clack, moo” is the refrain of the book and there is something deeply satisfying about those words. Just try them: “Click, clack, moooooo.”
Thirdly, and most importantly, we have the story itself: Farmer Brown’s cows have found his old typewriter, and all day long he hears them typing and mooing (see the above refrain) which is irritating enough for him, but things get even worse for Farmer Brown when he receives a note from the cows, demanding electric blankets, as the barn is very cold.
The nerve of these ungrateful cows! Farmer Brown is outraged by this demand and he is most definitely not inclined to provide these cheeky cows with electric blankets. So, the cows do what so many under-valued, unionised workers have done before them, and they exercise their democratic right to strike. No milk today.
The rest of the book describes the strike negotiations, and the involvement of other interested parties, who make demands of their own.
But do the cows get their electric blankets?
I couldn’t possibly reveal such a spoiler, so you’ll just have to read it and see for yourself.
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Simon and Schuster. Paperback. £5.99. 2002.