cover image The Cow That Laid an Egg

The Cow That Laid an Egg

Andy Cutbill, , illus. by Russell Ayto. . HarperCollins, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-137295-7

In this barnyard trifle, Marjorie the cow feels low because she “can't ride bicycles and do handstands like the other cows.” Her pals the chickens put their heads together, and a miracle occurs. The Holstein finds a small black-and-white spotted egg in her stall and proudly takes credit for it. Paparazzi flock to the farm, yet Marjorie's fellow heifers suspect the “crafty chickens.” Readers have reason to believe the cows when “a small, brown, feathery bundle” emerges—that is, until the hatchling says, “Moooo!” Cutbill (the Albie books) provides a silly surprise with this punch line, the high point in a studiously whimsical book. Ayto (The Witch's Children ), working in pen-and-ink and watercolor with paper collage to match Cutbill's determined nuttiness, depicts Marjorie as a doting, bipedal type, with heavy lashes surrounding her doleful blue eyes and a flower tucked behind her ear. A few spreads show panache, as in a view of the chickens in their stacked roosts that looks like a spread of comic-book panels, but there's not much to pull kids back for seconds after the single joke has been delivered. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)