When two young siblings discover a pregnant cow in the marsh behind their house, their sighting sets in motion a rescue mission and, ultimately, the delivery of a healthy calf in Lynn Domenick McKenzie’s children’s book, Celia the Cow.
As the story opens, we learn that Doug and Gina, nearing their teenage years, have moved with their parents from Chicago to a country house with farmers for neighbors. The siblings enjoy their new life with chickens, ponies, and plenty of room to roam, but their family doesn’t run its own farm. That’s why, when they’re playing outside one day and recognize the sound of a distressed cow, they know it isn’t theirs.
Their father calls their closest neighbor, Farmer Glen, who arrives to confirm it’s from his herd. Then he and his son set about pulling the cow from the marsh to help her give birth, with Doug and Gina serving as ready assistants. The birth is successful, and Farmer Glen takes the relieved cow and her new baby back to his farm.
Celia the Cow includes a few black-and-white line drawings, but feels more like a short chapter book than a picture book, with a reading experience to match. Its vocabulary is better suited for advanced readers, with words like “gauze,” “winch,” and “embryonic sac” used without explanation; similarly, the storytelling structure is geared to older readers, since the tale takes meandering asides to meditate on moments such as Farmer Glen rolling a new cigarette or Gina’s memories of other times playing in the yard. Such details slow the story and distract from the plot and its young protagonists, focusing instead on the adult’s actions and a thorough chronicle of the rescue.
While this is an exciting premise with likeable characters, it offers a dense narrative. As such, Celia the Cow will appeal to advanced young readers interested in animals and country living and willing to tolerate passages that more naturally appeal to adults.
Also available as an ebook.