I moved to Maine in 1982. I was a thirteen year old freshman in high school fresh out of a childhood in New York City. It sounds more exotic than it really was. The Maine I moved into wasn’t so rustic. The town, Cape Elizabeth, is quite upwardly mobile––think Boston suburb. I remember distinctly the day my friends told me we were headed to the Fryeburg Fair. I had been to a few Maine county fairs over the summers I spent Downeast on the coast of Maine, so I knew what to expect. The 4H clubs mesmerized me. These kids who took such control of large livestock were amazing. They knew what they were doing. They were all pig whisperers and lamb crooners. These animals I knew nothing about in the real world were kept clean, safe and show-worthy by kids who looked to be no more than nine or ten years old. At sixteen or so, I felt too old to learn how but man did I want to join that club.
Wordsmith Sharon Creech has come out with the new middle grade novel, Moo. It is kind of a verse novel and kind of not. The sentences are short, the prose is tight, the meaning is big. The use of text is fantastic. There are lots of words that
drip off the page. The main character is a girl named Reena who has just moved from Boston to Maine with her younger brother Luke and their parents. Right from the get-go Creech moves us into the storyline where an unpredictable woman named Mrs. Falala (Fuh-la-la) enters the children’s lives by demanding some respect. Their parents insist that they help this woman with her chores. The more they help, the deeper their relationship with her goes. Reena learns to communicate with Zora the Belted Galloway––a Oreo looking cow with black head and hind quarters and a wide strip of white through the middle. Luke teaches Mrs. Falala to draw. The two children also meet two other Maine kids who teach them how to show farm animals and how to appreciate the lay of the land instead of wonder what to do in a rural town. The beauty of Creech’s writing is that it washes over you before you have a chance to process it. So sometimes, you have to go back and re-read the words because there is always more than one meaning to attend to.
And I felt lucky
that Luke was with me
that I wasn’t wandering
this new town
I can handle it, Zep. And even if I couldn’t, I
wasn’t going to admit it to him.
You’ll have to work really hard to get Zora ready
and to learn what to do––
––I can work hard––
––and I’ll help you.
My mouth flopped open like a thirsty dog.
When I finished this book, I opened it back up and read it to my children. They ooo’d and ahh’d at all the right places. We loved it like we loved Creech’s The Boy on the Porch. It’s a smart book, a book that shows she’s done her research, and a book that speaks to the usually shushed voices of children and older adults. The book made me want to check out 4H for my own children and it made me want to find an older adult for them to get to know. it’s so important this communing with animals and the older generations. We have so much to learn from both populations. This is a five star HOORAH for Sharon Creech.