About the Holiday
While today’s holiday started out as a clever ruse to entice people to eat more chicken, it also gives us an opportunity to think about the world’s bovine citizens. These gentle animals deserve healthy and humane treatment as they provide our diets with needed protein as well as delicious treats. Cows appear in untold numbers of stories and songs for little ones, making them a favorite of young readers everywhere!
Prudence the Part-Time Cow
Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Out in the pasture swatting flies with her tail and lumbering along with the rest of the herd, “Prudence looked like a full-time cow.” But when she had a little time off from her bovine duties, Prudence “was a part-time cow.” While being milked she was a scientist, finding a book on the milking process “udderly amazing.” Salt licks were perfect blocks for architect Prudence’s wondrous structures. Engineer Prudence experimented with automatic lighting, even if the results were a bit electrifying.
The other cows didn’t like it. They wanted Prudence to be more like them. She would never fit into the herd, they whispered to each other. Prudence fretted. She wanted to have friends and fit in, so “she decided to try to be like the others.” Dutifully, she went down to the pond for a little refreshment and was doing fine until… “she calculated the water temperature and wind speed. ‘Sixty-eight degrees and four miles per hour.’”
The other cows were miffed, especially Bessie, who carefully made sure she had all her calves as she moved them along. Another day as the herd lazed under a tree, Prudence joined them, leaving only once to create a hat from an old wagon wheel, scrap of cloth, and piece of rope she found nearby. The other cows snorted, especially Patty, who jockeyed for a better position in the shade.
Even sleeping the same way as the others was difficult for Prudence when she had a brainstorm in the middle of the night. Spotz, the bull, was not happy with the noise she made with her latest invention. The herd had given up. Alone and sad, Prudence thought and thought of ways to make the others like her. Then it hit her! That night the barn rang with the sounds of her idea. But it wasn’t only one idea! When the herd woke and saw yet another contraption, they rolled their eyes. Until…
Bessie saw the “cow-culator” Prudence had made to help her keep track of her calves. Patty was thrilled with the “portable shade tree” made from an umbrella, a saddle, and some dangly adornments. And Spotz thought his new guitar made from a shovel and fishing line was “gnarly.” Prudence was suddenly pretty popular! Even though “she knew she would always be a part-time cow,” she was happy to feel like a “full-time member of the herd.”
Jody Jensen Shaffer’s moooving and funny story of a cow with a scientific bent will delight kids. Little ones who think differently will empathize with Prudence’s wish to be herself while also fitting in with the herd. As the cows stand around in a pond and huddle under a tree, Shaffer offers a wink to the crowd mentality and peer pressure that can foster inaction and clone-like behavior. Prudence makes a gentle, but determined role model as a thinker who won’t be cowed by others’ opinions.
Stephanie Laberis’s cartoon-inspired illustrations of a herd of very distinct cows are a perfect accompaniment to this humorous story with a meaningful message. Prudence, with her fluff of pink hair, is happiest when fulfilling her creative visions. As the other cows disparage her efforts and isolate her from the herd, Prudence’s sad eyes and droopy tail and ears make the effect of their words obvious. Each page offers an opportunity for readers to discuss diversity, individuality, and what it means to be a friend.
Prudence the Part-Time Cow would be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries as well as to home bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 8
Henry Holt and Co, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796156
Find out all about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and magazine writing for children on her website!
Discover a gallery of illustration and craft work by Stephanie Laberis on her website!
Cow Appreciation Day Activity
Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Mooo Mug you make yourself!
- White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
- Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
- Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
- Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics
- With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
- With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
- Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
- With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
- With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
- Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
- Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
- With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
- Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
- Pour yourself a mooo mug of milk and enjoy!
Picture Book Review