At WTBA we love a fractured fairytale - and we love this fractured nursery rhyme!
Nursery rhymes are often the currency of childhood – they’re what we repeat endlessly while driving, they’re the way we send a child off to sleep, they’re how we show visiting relatives just how brilliant our two-year-old can be: “listen to this!” we say and start our little one off on a well-loved rhyme.
Nursery rhymes are also, frequently, a little absurd. A cow who jumped over the moon? What on earth? How did that happen – and why?
But the underlying theme in this version is very clear: it’s worth persevering and enduring and working to achieve a dream, even if it looks somewhat impetuous at first.
The thing about perseverance is that it’s so often presented as a bit of a drag. Not in this story! Although the offbeat cow (who is just plain funny to watch thanks to brilliant illustrations) has a necessary moment of despair, on the whole, each attempt is a heck of a lot of fun.
Cow is the story of the many attempts that the cow in Hey Diddle Diddle made before she finally managed to get over the moon.
There’s a page full of pre-moon-attempt training... Then she trips, she overshoots, she runs into a hot air balloon and even opts out once!
Through it all she remains determined – and a little bit crazy.
She has a terrific support crew – the dog, the cat and the fiddle, and the dish and the spoon all do their part. (Everyone needs a support crew like this!)
They laugh with and at the cow, they sing encouraging songs, they take care of her immediate needs, they offer encouraging words - and they bind up her wounds of the emotional and physical kind.
Then the whole barnyard celebrates when she finally gets over the moon.
Like all good nursery rhymes, this one is fun to say aloud and it’s fun to read. Our two-year-old Ivy is loving it but she was a little worried when we came to Moon Attempt 4: “Oh no, those chickens are awake, it’s almost morning.” (She’s a farm girl at heart.)
But the thing I like most about this book is that it lays out a back story. Knowing that there is always a back story is right up there with the most important intellectual gifts we can give to a child.
Knowing there’s a back story means that jealousy may be abated. It’s the reason we treat each other with gentleness and kindness.
Knowing there’s a back story helps us to stop taking civil rights or women’s rights for granted.
Knowing that there are back stories means it’s good for us to keep working through our own stories – whether we’re jumping moons, passing exams, applying for jobs, teaching a child to sleep through the night, learning to talk, or... learning to walk (don't miss that link!)