cover image The Tiny, Tiny Boy and the Big

The Tiny, Tiny Boy and the Big

Nancy Van Laan. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $8.99 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-82078-9

Van Laan ( Possum Come a-Knockin ') dips into Scottish folklore and pulls out this plum of a tale featuring a wee lad and the cow who stubbornly resists his efforts to milk her. From sunup to sundown, the ``big, big cow kicked up her hard, hard heels and would not stand still.'' As each attempt fails, the boy retreats to his increasingly harried mother for tactical suggestions, which range from insistence to threats, sentimental appeals and sheer bribery (the cow refuses to be coaxed with the promise of a silk gown or a cup of tea). Finally, a little reverse psychology does the trick. Van Laan's chipper cumulative tale makes splendid use of repetition, both in the verses as well as in key words, and the result is irresistibly energetic. Priceman's witty watercolors underscore the story's verbal appeal through the distinctive black-and-white Holstein markings: the bovine motif pops up everywhere, from the book's endpapers to tiny cows dangling on a mobile above a crib, a cow-print towel hanging out to dry, a cow-shaped pitcher of cream, and a housecat whose fur looks suspiciously cow-like. Amusing to the eye and a treat for the ear, this rollicking read-aloud also deserves kudos on another front: the price. With the average cost of picture books hovering around $15, it's refreshing to see a new line of quality product for budget-minded buyers. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)