CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 21. . . .June 13, 2008
Chicken, Pig and Cow are friends who live in a popsicle-stick barn made by Girl. Although they wish to explore the outside world, the friends face two dilemmas: how to get out of the barn that has no door and what to do about the huge Dog who lives outside. The animal friends work together to escape from their barn by standing upon each other's backs. While this solution works well for Chicken and Pig, Cow gets stuck inside the barn with no one to climb on. Eventually, it is Dog who tips the barn over, allowing Cow to escape. With their first problem solved, the animals now have to deal with the issue of the Dog. Cow is trapped by Dog and terrified. Pig and Chicken muster their courage to confront him. They try talking to him and then invite him to play "Fetch". Dog responds, and they all quickly become friends. Dog is able to help the animals out by knocking a hole in their barn so they can come and go more easily. The book ends with Dog curled up beside the barn where his three new friends live.
Themes of friendship, loyalty, courage and perseverance are all addressed in this story that will appeal to preschoolers, teachers and parents alike. The three main characters are appealing because of their sense of adventure and their ability to work together to solve problems. Dog represents the unknown; a stranger who intimidates the other animals. The threat is brief though, as the friends discover that Dog simply wants to play. The ease with which the farm animals are able to make friends with Dog is reminiscent of the way young children can play together so effortlessly.
Ohi's cheerful watercolour illustrations tell the story effectively on their own. The characters are painted quite simply with few background details to complicate the story. Young children will find many of the illustrations funny, such as Cow's flying through the air, eventually landing on his head or tiny Pig confronting the huge Dog nose to nose.
The text is easy enough for preschoolers to understand, with plenty of short sentences and repetition of simple sentence structures. Although the vocabulary is simple, Ohi uses lively verbs to describe the antics of her characters. In her seventh picture book, Ruth Ohi has created a simple but heartwarming story about friendship and courage that will entertain and inspire young children.
Claire Perrin is a full-time teacher-librarian with the Toronto District School Board.
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