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Monday, January 31, 2011

Picture book review: Cows Can't Jump

Cows Can't Jump by Dave Reisman, illustrated by Jason A. Maas

Published: October 19th, 2008 by Jumping Cow Press
Genre: Picture Book / Beginner Reader (what kids use when they're learning to read independently - will sometimes have a "levels" system, but not always)
Binding: Paperback and boardbook (hard cardboard pages, designed for children under 3 - more about this later)
Page Count: Goodreads says 44, but they're not numbered so I'm not sure. That's what the book's website says, too, though, so I'm inclined to believe that.
Part of a series? I don't think so, no.
Amazon link.

Summary (from goodreads): Is it really true that cows can't jump, gorillas can't swim and sloths can't leap? Yes, but discover what these and other animals can do, as they swing, scamper and glide through Cows Can't Jump! In this humorous and inspirational adventure, animals focus on what they do best, comfortably aware they can t do everything, but proud of their own special skills.

Review: I'll admit, I'm a tiny bit conflicted on this one. I think Cows Can't Jump would be a good addition to any growing beginner reader collection, say for someone with a child just learning to read. That's who I would recommend this one for. It works very well as a beginner reader book, with big, active text that would help inspire print awareness, one of the steps of early literacy. The illustrations are great, hilarious at times, and I think kids learning to read would love that.

But as a beginner reader book, I would worry a bit about the use of contractions. The thing about kids who are just learning to read is that they probably haven't figured those out yet. I mean, how do you sound out "can't"? They can be confusing for kids. One of my favourite blogs has a post that goes a little more into depth about this. Compare Elephants Cannot Dance! The book also uses quite a few words that might be new to a young kid, like leap, trample, glide, canter, scurry, and I might worry that the reader would get frustrated at not knowing the words and quit reading. However, vocabulary building is always a good thing. But other than those issues, I think this works well as a beginner reader book.

I would not, however, use this is a Storytime. There isn't enough... story. With only a few words per page, this wouldn't be a good fit for my group. Even with a larger number of pages, it's way too short and there isn't enough of a flow to hold their attention for a long time. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and it's true of many beginner readers, but it's something I always consider when I'm reading picture books.

My biggest criticism is that I don't really know if this works entirely as a boardbook. I like the boardbook, but I don't think it's the best medium for the story. Boardbooks are generally for children under three and meant to be gnawed on, thrown around and loved before kids are ready for paper picture books. They work best with bold, bright colours, repetition in the prose, sometimes way to interact with the book (textures, holes in the pages, that kind of thing). The shape is also a bit strange... it's long and skinny, and most boardbooks are square and smaller to accommodate small hands.

However, I could be totally wrong in my idea of what makes a good board book. I'll take it to work with me next week and see if it catches the attention of any of the little kids.

One more thing: Part of the summary on goodreads that I omitted is about inspiring and teaching messages and things and I... don't like that. I don't think you need to try and actively teach children messages, especially in picture book. Just tell the story. If there's a lesson, they'll learn it. So this is something that rubs me the wrong way. But that's a personal preference.

All in all, I did enjoy this one despite my issues with a few things and love the illustrations. It's worth checking out, in my opinion, but not one of my favourite books.

(No rating because I don't have a picture book rating system.)

Peace and cookies,


  1. Great review! I don't read to kids much, so I always wonder which books are the best to buy my niece and nephew. Generally I end up buying the ones I read as a kid instead of trying new things.

  2. Liviania: If you ever want recommends, I have a ton!!


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