cover image How Now, Brown Cow?

How Now, Brown Cow?

Alice Schertle. Browndeer Press, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-276648-1

Like a vaudeville show with nary a weak act, Shertle's (William and Grandpa) collection of poems about cows abounds with tongue-in-cheek spoofs, verbal acrobatics and lyrical songs that are aptly illustrated by debut artist Schaffer's wry cast of brown and purple cows. With understated grace, ``Shelter'' describes a cow moving ``heavily toward sheltering/ aspen.../ At dawn/ a newborn calf/ follows closely at her/ side, his small hooves denting the wet/ prairie.'' In ``Taradiddle,'' Shertle tells of a cow who, after a famous adventure, ``never tried/ to jump again,/ but gazed for hours at the moon.'' In ``April 1,'' she imagines a day when ``the sun/ came up wearing/ a mustache'' and a ``frisky white [cow] gave vanilla/ milk shakes.'' With wide-brushed oil paintings, Schaffer is deft at showing both the beauty of milking time (when a cow's ``jaws move, chewing/ the good grain, blowing clouds/ of warm breath into the melting/ morning'') and the humor of a bespectacled schoolmarm cow teaching calves the difference between the words ``cow'' and ``bough,'' ``moo'' and ``through.'' By turns funny and tender, cheeky and thoughtful, this collection turns an unlikely subject into Grade A fare. All ages. (Sept.)