About the Holiday
Today’s holiday was established in 1937 as National Milk Month to encourage people to drink more milk to stabilize the dairy industry during a time of surplus. The event grew to celebrate all the benefits provided by the dairy industry around the world. The name was changed when the National Dairy Council took over promotion of the holiday.
A Symphony of Cowbells
Written by Heather Preusser | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen
With the dawning of spring, Gimmelwald came alive with the “Da-ding, da-ding. Jingle-jangle, jingle-jangle. Clang-clong-clank, clang-clong-clank” of bells as the cows were led to the sweet, green grass in the high meadows. The cows’ milk would become “scrumptious cheese…sold by the wedge, wheel, and wagonload.” As Petra walked with her family’s herd, she led her favorite cow, Elfi, who “wore the most booming brass bell of all.”
But one day Elfi’s bell was missing. Petra’s father told her they had a schedule to keep and that Elfi would have to go without her bell, but Elfi wouldn’t hear of it. She stomped her hoof and stood her ground. No amount of pushing, pulling or prodding could move Elfi from her spot. Petra ran and retrieved a tiny tin bell to hang around Elfi’s neck, but Elfi only “sniffed and snorted at the embarrassing tinkling. Tittle-tattle-tink, tittle-tattle, tink.”
Without Elfi to lead them, Petra’s other cows lay down in the meadow and refused to move as well. “‘No milk? No cheese? What’ll we do?’ Petra gulped.” She begged Elfi to get up, but Elfi simply gazed at Petra with “eyes wide as milk saucers.” Petra knew she had to find Elfi’s bell. She searched the house, looked in the barn, and combed the field, but didn’t find the bell. The sun went down, and “the stubborn cows remained rooted among the bellflowers.”
In the morning, Petra spied a crow with something shiny in its beak. She ran after it and discovered the bird’s huge nest high on a cliff. She was much too small to reach it, so she called her father, her mother, and a couple of neighbors. They piled on top of one another, and as Petra teetered on her mother’s shoulders, she reached into the nest and pulled out…Mr. Schmid’s pocket watch, Miss Baumann’s reading glasses, Farmer Felber’s wrench, Mother’s bracelet, Father’s keys, and…Elfi’s brass bell!
Petra skipped all the way to where Elfi and the other cows were keeping their protest, the brass bell announcing “Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG. Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG” all the way. When Elfi saw her bell, she danced with joy. Petra placed the bell over Elfi’s head and kissed her velvety nose. The other cows took notice. “On cue, they stood and moseyed up the mountainside….The symphony of cowbells was harmonious again—and LOUD. It was springtime in Gimmelwald after all.”
Heather Preusser’s enchanting Swiss tale of tenderhearted but stubborn Elfi will delight readers with its musical mystery and gentle humor. Kids will love hearing and reading along with the melodic verses of jingling cowbells sprinkled throughout the text. Preusser’s lyrical phrasing is as fresh as the mountain air and will transport children to the beautiful Swiss countryside.
A Symphony of Cowbells is a perfect example of text and illustrations working together to present the story and add layered details that elevate the reading experience. Eileen Ryan Ewen’s gorgeously detailed and charming paintings take readers to the heart of Gimmelwald, with its glorious mountain backdrop, quaint village architecture, and cozy homes decorated with Alpen cuckoo clocks, dainty curtains, and window boxes overflowing with flowers.
Along the way Ewen frames a consecutive story along the bottom of most pages. Through these panels, eagle-eyed readers will notice a curious happenstance occurring in Gimmelwald which just may explain a few things…. It’s not until the end, however, that kids discover the answer to the story’s mystery.
A Symphony of Cowbells is a captivating and humorous look at country life with a little science sprinkled in. Readers may be enticed to do a little more research into the animal behaviors that influenced the story. The book would make a lovely addition to any child’s home library.
Ages 5 – 8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369683
To learn more about Heather Preusser and her book as well as see a video about the real Gimmelwald, visit her website!
Discover more about Eileen Ryan Ewen and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!
National Dairy Month Activity
Ring a Bell for Reading Bookmark
It’s easy to make a stylish bookmark that can ring out your love of reading while marking your page!
- 3 shoelaces or ribbon of different designs
- Small “sleigh” bells or other bells
- Hold three shoelaces together and knot them together at the top
- Braid the shoelaces together as long as you want your bookmark to be
- At the end, string three or more bells onto the ends of the shoelaces and knot the shoelaces together to hold the braid closed.
- Alternately, you can knot the braid at the end and tie a group of bells to the end.
- The end with the bells becomes the top of the bookmark.
You can find A Symphony of Cowbells at these booksellers
Picture Book Review