A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Moo is an appealing, fun-to-read story about kindness and learning to be open to new experiences. Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons) opens her story with a sister and brother abruptly relocated from a city to rural Maine. The children readily embrace the pleasures of summer in a small, coastal community, but getting acclimated to their unofficial summer job -- the hard, filthy work of tending to a crotchety neighbor's cow -- is harder to accept. Short chapters, fun use of different typefaces and layouts, and a mix of prose and free-verse poetry may appeal to reluctant readers. The story deals with themes of death, from concern about the fate of farm livestock to the death of a character (due to natural circumstances).
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What's the story?
MOO introduces 12-year-old Reena and her family -- her brother, Luke, and her parents, unemployed journalists -- as they leave city life and head to coastal Maine for a fresh start. Everything about their new town is strange and novel, but nothing is stranger than their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Falala, who lives alone with an odd assortment of animals. Reena's parents "volunteer" her and Luke to help Mrs. Falala care for her cow, Zora, who's even more ornery than her owner. Mrs. Falala wants the kids to show her stubborn, ill-behaved cow in the fair. Reena and Luke don't like Mrs. Falala or Zora, but day by day they learn more about their neighbor, her cow, and themselves.
Is it any good?
The story is familiar -- children learn life lessons from a cranky elderly person -- but Sharon Creech's delightful writing makes this book feel fresh as a dewy morning on the farm. Moo is chock-full of gorgeous phrases ("a harlequin city," "inkwell eyes") that make its strong message about kindness and empathy seem light and fun. Lively visual treatment of the text adds to the pleasure of reading: Rain pours down the page, "soft, gray fffffffog" hovers, and flute music floats through the air.
As Reena transforms from an "inside girl" to an "outside girl," her world expands to include new friends, respect for hard work and skill, and deeper appreciation of kindness. Mrs. Falala will be a familiar type to many young readers; as her character is more fully revealed, children might look at the older people in their lives with more curiosity and empathy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the blend of poetry and prose in Moo and how the visual treatment of the words affects the reading. Do you find the different fonts and typefaces helpful to the story or distracting?
Do you think Reena and Luke are initially disrespectful to Mrs. Falala? Is she respectful? Is there a better way the children could have handled that situation?
Was it fair for Reena's parents to insist the siblings work for Mrs. Falala? Have you ever had something positive come out of a task you initially resented?
- Author: Sharon Creech
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Horses and Farm Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: August 30, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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