Cronin, D. (2000). Click, clack, moo cows that type. New York: Simon and Schuster.
In this fictional story, the characters are farm animals and a farmer. The cows know how to type and make a demand that the farmer must answer. Once the farmer responds a chain of events is set into motion. This story is a great example of character development for young children because the cows are clearly portrayed as the protagonist and the farmer is the antagonist. In the protagonist role, the cows' appearances are described through the illustrations and their actions as characters propel the story. Specifically, the fact that they type provides the story with every element of the plot. Their direct opposition is the farmer since they feel that they deserve a certain item from the farmer. I feel that this is an effective example in teaching children about characterization because the protagonist and antagonist roles are clear along with having a clear and simple conflict and solution. An example of this clarity comes from the typed correspondence that is exchanged between the cows and the farmer. This story is also a 2001 Caldecott Honor Book, which are awards honoring books that were published the previous year for their illustrations.
The artistic style of the illustrations in this book takes on a cartoon form. This form is strictly adhered to through the illustrator's use of round figures for the characters and exaggerated facial features. An example, of this from the story would be the page where the cows type a note to the farmer and nail it to the side of the barn. The background are shades of red, using only one color. The only other items on the page are the farmer and the note in large typeface print. Moreover, the backgrounds are all simple using few colors to emphasize the appearance of the characters. In fact, all of the backgrounds are neutral, muted colors and are drawn to give the impression of the use of water color painting. The lines used in the cartoons are heavy brushstrokes that are uneven to portray a cartoon scene, such as the outlines of the barn which make it look silly and unrealistic.
I would recommend this book to other readers and educators of young children because it is a straight forward example of plot and characterization. In addition, it possesses a surprise ending that engages and entertains children when read aloud or silently. In addition, I could see this book being used to teach visual elements of art such as cool and warm colors as well as lines, since there are multiple and varied examples of each included in the publication. In fact, I believe that the illustrations add to the impact of the story and wonder if another artistic style, such as the abstract style, was utilized if the story would still be as funny and entertaining as it is with the use of cartoons?