Newbery Medalist Creech touches on themes of loss, friendship, and belonging in this appealing tale of a young girl’s unlikely relationship with Zora, an enormous belted Galloway.
When 12-year-old Reena’s parents lose their newspaper jobs in the big city, they decide to change the flight plan of their lives and move to a small coastal town in Maine. Reena and her brother, Luke, “a seven-year-old complexity,” are volunteered by their mother to help Mrs. Falala, an elderly and ostensibly cantankerous woman whose menagerie of animals includes a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna, and the ornery, stubborn, slobbering, bellowing cow, Zora. Soon Luke is teaching Mrs. Falala to draw, and Reena is preparing to show Zora at the upcoming fair. The book’s playful use of words sets this novel apart. Not only does Creech seamlessly intersperse prose and poetry, but the design manipulates typeface, font, setting, and spacing to paint word-pictures, in some instances creating concrete poetry while in others emphasizing a few words on the page—an accentuation that makes the story come alive and deftly communicates the range of emotions, from humor to sorrow, that the story conveys. Luke, Reena, and most of their new neighbors are likely white; Beat, an older girl who helps Reena learn about cows, is dark-skinned.
Fans of Love That Dog (2001) and Hate That Cat (2010) will find much to love in this story of a girl, a cow, and so much more. (Fiction. 8-12)