A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A glimpse into how cows behave, what kind of care they need, and the work that goes into showing livestock at fairs. Demonstration of time invested in learning new skill paying off with stronger skills.
Pushing through discomfort and frustration results in growth and strength. Trying new things -- even things you think you'll dislike -- helps you discover new interests and passions. First impressions don't tell the whole story. Kindness and generosity aren't always easy and can require personal sacrifice.
Positive Role Models
Reena and Luke are very responsible and hardworking. They're chided for being disrespectful of Mrs. Falala at first, but they were speaking up for themselves and confronting her rudeness. They accept their parents' scolding and respect the commitment to help their neighbor. Mrs. Falala is an exacting boss, but the children realize she has somewhat hidden charms. Reena and Luke's parents are empathetic and involved parents, nudging them toward experiences that challenge and build their character.
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).
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.