Children’s Book of the Week: Sixteen Cows
Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
This one is for Emily.
Lisa Wheeler, rhyme-mistress extraordinaire, continues to charm the daylights out of every single one of us, and really hits it out of the park with this one. It’s the story of Gene Biddle and Sue Waddle, two ranchers who live right next to each other, love their cows, and generally pay no attention to each other. They are spending too much time loving their cows, and singing their cows home with a fun happy rhymey sing-song that’s made up of all the cows names.
But one day a tornado rips out the fence between the two ranches, and the cows are clumped together in a big messy cowherd of Biddles and Waddles, and Gene and Sue get into a cow-singing-home fight that has the poor herd clomping from one ranch to another. Gene and Sue finally call a truce, for the sake of the poor cows, you know, and then they finally realize what kindred spirits they are, with one of the loveliest getting-to-know-you sequences I’ve read in children’s literature: “Gene mumbled, ‘What nice cows you have,’/Sue blushed. ‘I like yours too.'”
So the cows get to be one big happy herd, and serve as bridesmaids at Gene and Sue’s wedding. Hurray! I will honestly say that all my kids — even Zuzu — love this book, and want it read again and again. The illustrations are marvelous too, and the cows really are pretty. It’s fairly difficult to read this without lapsing into a Southern accent of some sort, which is part of the fun. And now Eli is using phrases like “down yonder” in his everyday speech.
Also, I should say that, when I say that “Zuzu loves this book,” that would probably be better characterized as “Zuzu is completely obsessed with this book and wants us to read it to her 100 times a day.” She really, really loves it. I was trying to decide whether to get it for her for Christmas or to just get it out of the library every three weeks. But then I noticed that, in the scene where Gene and Sue get married, there are two cowboys dancing together, and it’s very subtle, but also unmistakable once you notice it, and how great is that? So I will be buying this one to put under the tree.