This is a very funny picture book that was well received by both groups. Nadine the cow is quite a character. We appreciated the humour and sassiness of Nadine – some of us recognising the “Nadine” type personality in our own schools.
We began by talking about some of the negative reviews this picture book has received; comments in Goodreads reviews included:
But why, oh, WHY did she have to lie to her friends at the end? Why couldn’t they find out she wasn’t brave but love her anyway? Or have another reason she’s so amazing, like facing fears? Or being adventurous?
Not a cool message to put in a picture book, even if it’s saying that you need to be brave or that she was telling a little why lie or deceiving indirectly or by omission.
It is fair to say that we were quite incredulous that this book would receive such criticism and felt that the “lie” or “omission” was a great part of the humour. We also felt that we shouldn’t under estimate young children and their ability to pick up on the nuances of this text.
Some of us who had read this book aloud to our classes said even the very little ones realised that Nadine was a fraud. We also thought it was a great teaching opportunity to discuss with the children the idea of lies and the ways in which lies can be compounded from something small to something big. Nadine’s lie has the end result of her having to do the very thing that she most worries about – going into the woods at night. We could ask the children – Have you ever told a small fib that became something much bigger and then you couldn’t back out of it? – How do you tell the truth after you have been lying for a time? – Why do people tell lies about themselves to look better in front of their friends? – Would her friends have liked her even if she was scared? – How will Nadine cope with operating the tours? – There are many issues to discuss here.
Another wonderful quality in this picture book is the extended vocabulary choices. We discussed the many strong verbs that are used and the rhyme and rhythm patterns that make this book delightful to read aloud. We also looked at intertextual references, noting that that the page where Nadine is frightened by her tail is reminiscent of the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz – perhaps that passage could be read as a contrast. It was also noted that one class had lots of fun with the students pretending to be cows sashaying around the room – unfortunately we didn’t have any volunteers for demonstrations!
Gus Gordon’s illustrations are also wonderful – he uses mixed media pieces of old ledger pages, photographs, wallpaper, textured paper, and newspaper with watercolours, collage, crayons and pencils. We loved the expressions on the cow’s faces at various times in the text and enjoyed sharing this book.