WHERE'S MY COW?
by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In Terry Pratchett’s latest novel, Thud!, he explains that every evening at 6:00, Commander Samuel Vimes makes sure he is with his young son, Sammy, to read Sammy’s favorite book, Where’s My Cow? Vimes realized that his family life was as important as his work life. Pratchett has taken the text that he presents in Thud! As well as some of the alterations to the text created by Vimes and teamed up with illustrator Melvyn Grant to present a version of Where’s My Cow? which is almost suitable as a children’s book.
The basic book is a simple children’s book about farm animals, although as Vimes reads it, he realizes that the only animals his son will really see will be on a plate. He then changes the words to reflect the things his son will actually see and have to deal with as he grows older, providing a Pratchettian commentary on educating children with what they need to know.
The storyline, simple as it is, does work and stand on its own from Thud!, but when reading a children’s book to my four-year-old daughter after reading Where’s My Cow? I found myself rebelling against the simplicity of the standard children’s book.
Grant’s illustrations are a completely different style than those of Josh Kirby or Paul Kidby, who have provided the artwork for so many of the Discworld novels and ancillary items. Grant successfully manages to capture both the carefree style endemic to so many children’s books in his creation of pastel sheep and rabbits and pigs, as well as the brilliantly colored cartoons that make up Vimes and the scenes of Ankh-Morpork. In a nice reversal, a small dragon appears with Vimes and Sammy on the pages illustrated by the pastel animals, while the pastel animals appear with them on the pages shwing Ankh-Morpork.
Grant’s artwork also serves to provide a look at Sam Vimes which isn’t really shown in Pratchett’s writing or on the covers created by Kidby and Kirby. This is a Vimes who is in his safe place, at home with Lady Sibyl and young Sam. He can let his hair down (what’s left of it) and leave the cares of the city watch behind him.
Where’s My Cow? is not really a book for small children, despite its appearance and theme. Nor is it really a book to be used to introduce people to Pratchett’s world and writing. For those who have already visited Discworld and made Vimes’s acquaintance, however, Where’s My Cow? is a fun exploration into the world and a great look at the importance of reading, anything, to children.
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