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4.6 out of 5 stars
A Birthday for Cow!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
It's funny to think that even though we have all been kids, so few adults amongst us actually get them. Grown-ups like to think that children are merely shrunken versions of themselves. They forget that a child's sense of humor is a difficult thing to determine. It's easy to say, "Well kids think farts are funny so I'll just write a whole book about farting," and leave it at that, but in the end it's the lazy way to do things. Certain picture book author/illustrators have figured out how to speak to a child's sense of humor without dumbing things down or patronizing the kids they are presenting to. Mo Willems is a good example of this. Jules Feiffer has his moments. Mara Bergman knows her stuff. And one of the newest additions to this laudable crew is Jan Thomas. Thomas burst onto the scene last year with her seemingly simple, What Will Fat Cat Sit On? and it proved an immediate success. Now she's back with another book that is, shockingly, as good and maybe even better than its predecessor. "A Birthday for Cow!" shows that even when Jan Thomas GETS kid humor, she also knows how to write a tale that'll charm adult readers as well.

Open the book and the first thing you see on the endpapers is a two-page spread of Duck carefully crossing out the days on the calendar until he has reached "Cow's Birthday". You see, cow's birthday is today and Mouse and Pig have got everything under control. They're gonna make the best cake ever with flour, and sugar, and eggs . . . . "AND A TURNIP?" Duck whips out a turnip to the shock of his friends who inform him, very patiently, "No, Duck. We will not put in a turnip." Fair enough. So next they mix it all with . . . "A TURNIP!" Again, Duck has to be told that turnips are not a part of the process. On it goes until the cake is ready. Cow walks in the room, takes one look at his friends and the cake, and exclaims with sheer heartfelt love and glee, "A TURNIP!" All works out well in the end with Pig and Mouse devouring the cake and Duck discussing with Cow his favorite methods of using turnips. "Sometime I brush my teeth using a turnip." "Really? Me, too!"

Like "What Will Fat Cat Sit On?" this puppy is built for reading aloud. You just hunker down, get ready, and when you get to the word "Turnip", you let rip for all you're worth. Now there was some concern here in New York that some kids who will be read this book won't know what a turnip is. That's a legitimate worry, I guess. You get a lot of kids around here that are not exactly as well versed in their root vegetables as they might be. The concern, however, is minor because it really doesn't matter what kind of food Duck is promoting. First of all, until you read the book aloud you're never going to notice how funny the word "Turnip" is. We all knew that "rutabaga" was funny. And maybe if Duck kept throwing the word "rutabaga" in everyone's face it would have a charm of his own, but there's something that feels just right about that blatant word "turnip". It's the "er" sound, I think. It's funny. And as long as you see Cow eating it later (which you do) then it doesn't matter if kids are intimately familiar with turnips or not.

The art of Ms. Thomas is done entirely on computers with text types set in names like "Eatwell Chubby and Chaloops". The book retains the manic glee of its predecessor, though many will be sad to find that the Fat Cat is unfortunately absent from this story. Still, it has the same gleeful goofiness present in the first book. These animals sport big round eyes and grins that make them look just a little too happy. Like those people you meet at parties who are so intense and focused on what you're saying that you suddenly loose your train of thought. It's that look. And for a picture book for small children, that's exactly what is going to capture the attention of even the most ADD of kids. The color scheme is fabulous as well. These characters are all thick black lines against blue, green, pink, and purple backgrounds. A graduate course in children's literature would do well to examine exactly why it is that Thomas uses one color or another at certain points of the book (particularly the purple).

Like all sequels, there will be people who moan that "A Birthday for Cow!" doesn't have the same sense of manic danger that Thomas' first book had. Pfui. As a sequel I tell you that it doesn't disappoint. If you liked her first book, you'll love the second and if you never even read the first you will ADORE the second. For an artist who works in a misleadingly upfront style, it's clear that Jan Thomas has a few aces up her sleeve yet. Just a great creation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A while back we worried what Fat Cat would sit on. Now Jan Thomas has us concerned about Cow's birthday. She sure keeps us on pins and needles, that Jan Thomas!

Things start out beautifully in this short, short picture book. It's cow's birthday, and her friends Pig, Mouse and Duck are going to make her the best birthday cake EVER. Pig and Mouse put the necessary sugar, flour and eggs in a big bowl. But just as they are about to stir, Duck asks if he can add a turnip. Who ever heard of a turnip in a birthday cake? Pig and Mouse know this is just plain wrong, so every time Duck suggests it they turn him down.

Duck is a bit obsessed with that turnip. Which is of course what makes the book so hysterically funny. On just about every page he's asking if he can add that silly turnip, much to the dismay of Mouse and Pig, who are sensible creatures. They keep refusing, until a twist in the simple plot causes them to rethink turnips and birthday cakes altogether.

Jan Thomas has a real talent for writing and illustrating super short books. Do you know how hard it is to tell a story in less than 100 words? Trust us, it's tough! We admire her for that alone. But the woman can draw funny pictures as well. And while we don't know too much about text type, we do know that we love the text type Eatwell Chubby and Chaloops. Because honestly, how can you NOT love the something called Eatwell Chubby and Chaloops?

This is the perfect birthday gift for the preschool crowd. Serve it up with milk and turnips!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2014
As of now there is one negative review. From an adult who hasn't yet read this book with a child :-)

I have to agree with the negative reviewer. I was browsing the library, ran out of time, so threw this into my basket (librarians had it on display.... smart ones they are). I skimmed it and thought "laaaaame". Kind of 'meh' illustrations, and what kid will know/care what a turnip is.

WOW was I wrong. I read it with my 4 year old, and he literally was falling over laughing. Laughing so hard I was laughing right with him. Next night he read it with his dad, and same thing-- just falling over laughing at the book. Tonight was a late night, so he took the book to bed and he's reading it on his own-- he NEVER does that!'

The awesome thing about this book, is that it reminds us just adults just how great the little things are. Kids remind of us every day. You know... when a kid cracks up laughing at your pretend fall, or the silly face. How exciting it is when a squirrel is in your yard, or when they get to help make pancakes. This is the book version of all of that. You'll love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
You have to love this book, one about the goofily smiling cow on the cover about to celebrate a birthday. Kids will love the fun graphics, the expressive characters, and the surprise turn taken at story's end. As with other books by Jan Thomas, I like that every page is used productively, including both inside covers.
Adults looking for a good read-aloud book need look no further than Birthday for Cow or other winning stories by the same author.
I like the continuity of using the same characters in subsequent books that may add or delete one character but mostly keeps the gang together. Be sure to read this book before Thomas' "The Doghouse" to fully appreciate a hilarious turn taken in that book. For fun and creativity, this book takes the cake.
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on September 18, 2014
This is a cute little book. If you have an off sense of humor then you (or your child) will like this book. A group of animals wanted to do something nice for cow for her birthday; they kept trying to make a cake and one of the animals kept trying to add in something that totally didn't go into the making of a cake. End the end cow did appreciate her friends helping make her day a good one but although the others kept telling the duck that what they wanted to add was dumb etc it actually was the main thing cow enjoyed the most. Because he was giving her what he knew she enjoyed even if it didn't really fit into the cake, decorations etc. My 2 year old granddaughter did sit and listen to the story and the illustrations did keep her attention. Storyline was a little chopped up at times, but over all an okay story
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I agree with the more in depth reviews that other posters have left here. I just want to add that since March when I shared this during read aloud time with my kindergarten inclusion class, at least 2 children have read it everyday. They wanted me to re-read it weekly. I had to break up fights over this book--seriously, there is no higher compliment than that. It was one of the 3 most popular books of the school year for my 5 and 6 year old students, typically developing as well as those with special needs. My 3 1/2 year old at home loves it too.
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on April 15, 2014
great fun children's story book, good drawings. fun dialogue. A pleasure to listen to and to read by preschool to early elementary children, although best suited for preschool.
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on February 4, 2014
This book looked brand new! My granddaughter loved it for her birthday!! I received another book from another seller, same "condition" stated, but it was nowhere near as nice as this one. Thank you!!
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on December 6, 2013
Love this book. My girls were 5,8, and 11 years old when we first read this book, not to mention their slightly older mother and we found it to be rather funny. And now that it has been 3 years, we still all find it a lot of fun.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon November 19, 2013
I have yet to meet a kid who didn't like Jan Thomas' books. The pictures are simple and fun and the story is entertaining to them (and me, too). This offering has the group planning a surprise party for Cow. Everyone is focused on the cake except Duck who wants to include a turnip somewhere. As it turns out, a Turnip is exactly what Cow wants.
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