Monday, July 02, 2007

Where's My Cow?

Where's My Cow?

Terry Pratchett

Date: 27 September, 2005   —   $11.53   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy, Children's But Not Really

Where's My Cow? is part of that delightful genre that looks like a children's book, is illustrated like a children's book, and yet is sold in the adult section even though a small child could read it without any worry of inappropriate material. This is because some books, like this and like The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish (Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean) are much, much funnier when read as adults, due to the subtext going on.

Where's My Cow? is sort of a campanion to the novel Thud, and expands upon a minor incident in one chapter. (I have not read Thud but I am very good at tracking things down, and I wanted to see if Where's My Cow was an illustrated chapter, which it is not.) It is the tale of Sam Vimes, head of the City Watch, who drops everything he is doing to read to his son every night at six, because Some Things Are Important. (And yes, they are.)

The name of the one-year-old's beloved book is, like its frame, Where's My Cow? and Sam Vimes is very good at making the animal noises for the not-cows that are found along the way. But Vimes is a very pragmatic man, and he wonders about the value of a farm book for a city boy... and so creates his own version of the tale, Where's My Dad?

Melvyn Grant's illustrations are spot-on perfect. It looks as though he took the Paul Kidby designs (showcased in The Last Hero) and worked them to a more realistic perspective (though Lady Sibyl is almost identical). Sam Vimes looks more than a bit like Bogart in this version, and you can see the love shining through him when he looks at his son. Various other characters make brief appearances; Grant decided to skew Lord Vetinari clear over toward Shakespeare, which makes his polite little smile somehow chilling.

In essence, there's several stories being told here. There's what the text is saying. There's what the references to established Discworld characters (25+ books!) are saying. There's what the pictures are twisting the words into— it's quite obvious that Sam Vimes is a bit of a clown for his son. And, of course, there's the message that Some Things Are Important, especially making time for your son.

Get this book if you're not ashamed to be reading a picture book in public, and if you've got a love for Pratchett's work. Or get this book if you know nothing about Pratchett and love a good children's book. You can even get a copy for your children.

But only if you're going to read it aloud.

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