12 October 2009

Wrestle Mania

A recent bedtime favorite has been Clancy The Courageous Cow by Lachie Hume. It is a story about being comfortable in your own skin and it teaches kids that it is okay to be different. This, of course, is not why it appeals to Isaac. It is also a story in part about wrestling cows. What boy could resist?

Clancy is born into a herd of Belted Galloways, but he has no belt. He is shunned by the herd because he is different. He tries to gain a belt by rolling in the snow, tying on a bandage, and even painting one around his middle. But nothing works. In a neighboring pasture lives a herd of Herefords. They are big and fat because each year they win the rights to the better pasture in a wrestling contest between their herd and the Galloways. The smaller, weaker Belted Galloways lose each year until Clancy begins sneaking into the good pasture at night to eat the rich grass. He is not spotted because he is all black and he becomes big and fat and strong. Finally his herd realizes that not having a belt can be a good thing and Clancy enters the wrestling contest and wins. When his herd begins to exact revenge on the Herefords for their many years of ill treatment, Clancy calls for peace among the cows and the herds begin to mingle and live together in harmony.

Yes, very cheesy. I agree. But the illustrations are amusing and kind of folksy. It is the spread that shows pictures of Clancy practicing different wrestling holds, however, that clinches the boy-factor in this book. The idea of the underdog triumphing over the oppressor also resonates with children, especially young boys.

I do like, too, that this book begins to teach that being different is okay, and it can even be an advantage. Kids face so much cruelty as they grow up, from each other and from society, and they are bombarded with so many messages that conforming and blending in is better than being an individual. Any book that passes on the message that to be yourself is to be valuable is one worth sharing. That is a message that even boys need to hear. If the book also has wrestling cows, all the better.

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