________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 15 . . . .April 1, 2005


Something to Tell the Grandcows.

Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Distributed in Canada by R. G. Mitchell Family Books, Inc.), 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-8028-5236-X.

Subject Headings:
Antarctica-Discovery and exploration-Fiction.
South Pole-Fiction.
Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957-Fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4



In October of 1933 American explorer Richard E. Byrd sailed off on his second expedition to Antarctica aboard the Jacob Ruppert with 45 officers and crew members, 56 assorted scientists, journalists and cameramen, 153 dogs and several cows. Among the bovine component was a certain brown and white cow named Emmadine. What was a cow doing on a ship sailing to Antarctica? According to author Eileen Spinelli's picture book Something to Tell the Grandcows, Emmadine was in search of stories to impress her grandcows; things that would be a bit more exciting than her previous exploits, which included swatting 17 horseflies and chasing a crow from the cornfield. Something to Tell the Grandcows is Emmadine's story of her journey to the frozen continent and her adventures during her year-long stay there.

     The Antarctic is full of surprises for Emmadine. She watches spotted Leopard seals basking on ice cakes, giant petrels soaring in the sky and whales spouting in the bay. She has an encounter with a penguin, experiences the midnight sun, and finally on April 19 finds out what winter at the South Pole is like:

internal artOn that day the sky flared blue, green, red
and yellow. It was quite beautiful.
Emmadine had never seen anything
like it.

Oh, wouldn't the grandcows be amazed!

     By the time Emmadine arrives home to be greeted by cheering crowds, brass bands and the President of the United States, she has collected a substantial list of adventures to amaze her grandcows.

     According to author Eileen Spinelli, there were indeed several cows on one of Admiral Byrd's expedition. In her creation of Emmadine as one such passenger, the author brings a ring of truth to her character. After all, are not grandparents forever cruising the world and bringing home stories to amaze their grandchildren? That Emmadine has the time of her life on her trip to Antarctica does not in any way detract from her magnanimous desire to amuse her grandcows!

     Well known artist Bill Slavin's bold acrylic illustrations give historical and geographic authenticity to the setting of Something to Tell the Grandcows and complement its gentle humour perfectly. His depictions of the frozen continent are enough to make the reader shiver. Fascination with the world's extremities (both North and South) is widespread not only among adults but also among children. In sharing Something to Tell the Grandcows with an audience, the younger the listeners are, the more willing they will be to suspend disbelief and thoroughly enjoy the spectacle of Emmadine the grandmother cow dressed up in muffler and uddermuff enjoying the sights and sounds of Antarctica.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen is also a grandmother who has her own adventures in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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