CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 32. . . .April 23, 2010
The third adventure of Chicken, Pig, and Cow is a delightful story about being different, accepting one’s differences and being accepted by others. When Cow was made out of clay by Girl in the first book, Girl did not have black or brown clay, and so she used purple. Cow had never worried about being different until now, but she has learned that cows generally have brown, black or gray markings. Cow does not feel content with her purple patches and embarks on a quest to be more cow-like. While Chicken and Pig are sleeping in the barn, Cow sets out to change her appearance. This is accomplished by rolling in gravel and then adding brown spots from Squirrel’s seeds. In a stroke of luck, Cow also discovers new hooves when she steps into some acorn tops. Looking quite ridiculous, but feeling proud of her transformation, Cow returns to the barn to show her friends. Fearing that Cow is lost or lonely, Chicken, Pig and Dog have left the barn to look for her. When they see the new, improved Cow, they lovingly admire her bravery and appearance, but they reassure her that she is still Cow, their friend. Cow decides to shake off all the seeds, gravel and acorn seeds and return to her purple self. She declares, “This feels much better.” The friends then decide to take the seeds and acorn tops to their new friend Squirrel.
Ruth Ohi has created another satisfying story about true friendship with the animal characters she created in 2008 in Chicken, Pig, Cow. In spite of Cow’s low self-esteem, her friends reassure her that “purple is a lovely colour” and it is “easy to see in a snowstorm.” The way Chicken and Pig worry about their missing friend is endearing. When they find her, they never laugh or ask questions but find the positive side of the situation, commenting, for instance, on her “nice shoes.” At the end of the book, the animals expand their group of friends by befriending Squirrel even though they considered her to be Big and Bunchy when they first met her.
The theme of being unique is presented with beautiful simplicity in this book. Children will relate to the “purple problem” by identifying something that makes them unique or different. Ohi’s message is clear: everyone is different, but it is these differences that make us who we are.
Ohi’s watercolour illustrations support the text and add humour. In fact, the story tells itself through the pictures, making it a great book for preschoolers to “read” independently. Children will appreciate the funny details in the illustrations which are never mentioned in the story. The vocabulary and sentence structure are simple enough for preschoolers to understand but still contain warmth and humour.
Chicken, Pig, Cow and the Purple Problem surpasses the first two books in this series because of its important messages about friendship and self-acceptance.
Claire Perrin is a teacher-librarian with the Toronto District School Board.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.