Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Children's Book Review: 'Buckamoo Girls' by Ellen A. Kelly

Buckamoo Girls by Ellen A. Kelly
illustrated by Tom Curry
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006

Buckamoo Girls by Ellen A. Kelley is a picture book for young children that shines as a read-aloud. Large, crisp and brightly-colored illustrations by Tom Curry take up half to two-thirds of each two page spread, and Kelley's story of two cows who want to be cowgirls is written in brief poetic phrases: “Two cows-out back,-spotted brown-spotted black.-Cud-munchin'-musey moos-dream of bein'-buckaroos.

The text brings the images to life as the two cows adventure through the west, overcoming obstacles such as cactus, rivers, tumbleweeds, and rainstorms. They rest for a spin at the hoe-down, visit the rodeo, and end their day with food, song, and a pillow fight by the campfire.

The experience of reading this book silently to myself didn't come close to the excitement that it generated when read aloud to a class of first-graders. The children thought it was funny to see cows riding horses and enjoyed the campfire song at the end. I wondered if young children would be able to understand some of the western lingo (e.g. “Snortin' bull,-sharp horn.-Bucked off,-britches torn.”), but with pictures to help elucidate the text, one child specifically mentioned that it was funny when the cow's pants were torn!

On the whole, this book is a rollicking read-aloud that young children are sure to enjoy.

Ellen A. Kelley, author and poet, lives with her husband, John, in California and Northern New Mexico, where she often dreams of being a Buckamoo Girl. Her first children's book, The Lucky Lizard, was called “hilarious” (School Library Journal) and “delightful” (Children's Literature).

Tom Curry is a painter and award-winning illustrator who lives in west Texas near Big Bend National Park. He has illustrated six children's books, including The Bootmaker and The Elves by Susan Lowell, an IRA Children's Choice, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book, and an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. His paintings, mostly of stylized and humorous western scenes, are in collections in the United States and abroad. For more information about Tom, visit his Web site at www.tomcurrystudio.com.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor and website designer and developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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