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CHEWING THE CUD by Dick King-Smith

CHEWING THE CUD

By Dick King-Smith

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-81459-0
Publisher: Knopf

A memoir from a beloved chronicler of the barnyard reveals a vast experience with his subject matter, and a huge capacity for self-deprecation. Lovers of King-Smith’s (Funny Frank, 2001, etc.) vividly realized animal characters will enjoy meeting his many real-life animals, from Kicker, a cow so named because she, “like a professional footballer, practiced the art for her own sake”; through Anna, a dachshund who “must have had a very long bladder because, in wet weather, which she abhorred, she would lie doggo for twenty-four hours”; to Snowballs, a Muscovy duck who “was the grand seigneur of a large harem of females . . . and his mission in life was a simple one, namely to pass on his genes.” No proper memoir of farming life can get very far away from the earthiness of animal husbandry, and this one fairly revels in the specifics of the maintenance and procreation of its various creatures. In structure, it skips about, seemingly randomly, from youth to courtship and marriage to reminiscences of his grandparents while all the while returning over and over to the heart of the matter—the farm. The vignettes of farm life are frequently hilarious, the evocations of the post-war period are nostalgic but not sentimental, and the author’s descriptions of his marriage are truly touching. The overall effect of this offering is to make the reader feel as if she has just had a long, rambling chat with an enormously affable older gentleman—which is just about exactly what the author is. With a primary focus on adult concerns—work, finances, marital and parental relations—this may prove a disappointment to children hoping to read stories of a real-life Babe, but for readers of all ages who may find fascinating a portrait of a way of life that has gone by, it is a real gem. (Autobiography. 10+)