Four old animals live on Farmer Fred’s farm – Pig, Horse, Donkey and Cow. None of the animals is very productive, but Farmer Brown, who is no longer very productive himself, doesn’t mind. None of the five friends has seen much of life beyond the farm and, as they near the end of their lives, they wonder what life might be like further away. Cow’s friends tell her that when she dies she will go everywhere, see everything.
Then, on the night Cow dies, a strange thing happens. As the remaining animals settle down for the night, they hear a strange noise and see Cow, in the sky, flying. She has come back to show them the beautiful new life she now has. The animals wake Farmer Fred and together they watch Cow.
Afterwards, Farmer Fred is never quite sure if he really saw Cow, or if it was a dream. But every now and then he feels a tickle on his back where wings might sprout and, with the remaining animals, quietly looks forward to what is to come.
Farmer Fred’s Cow is a beautiful, evocative picture book, which looks at the themes of life and death in a gentle, even fun way. The book is more than tasteful – it is enjoyable, despite subject matter which in other stories could be gloomy. Wild, a master of the picture book form, has produced a story which touches the heart.
The illustrations of David Waller, in acrylic and pencil, are a perfect complement to the tale. O\Particularly beautiful are the scenes of Cow and other ghostly animals, flying in the night-time sky with angel-like wings, before a huge full moon.
Farmer Fred’s Cow, by Margaret Wild and David Waller
ABC Books, 2004