Farmer Fred's Cow, by Margaret Wild

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.

A masterpiece.

Farmer Fred’s Cow, by Margaret Wild and David Waller
ABC Books, 2004

Mr Moo, by Margaret Wild

Mr Moo has a nice house and good neighbours. Mostly, he’s content, but sometimes he wishes for a special friend to share things with. Then along comes Jimmy Johnson, who is off to see the world. When he takes Mr Moo’s unfinished row boat for a row and it sinks, however, he changes his plans. He will stay and help Mr Moo fix the boat.

Mr Moo takes Jimmy home to stay and soon the pair have the kind of special bond that Mr Moo has dreamed off.

Mr Moo is a bright picture book combining the writing talents of the renowned Margaret Wild with the illustrative skills of Jonathan Bentley. Published in a hardback edition in 2002, it has just been released in paperback format.

Kids will love the anthropomorphic Mr Moo (a cow) and Jimmy (who is a duck) as well as the minor characters and bright surrounds of Mr Moo’s home. They will also like the uncomplicated story – perfect for the littlies.

Mr Moo, by Margaret Wild and Jonathan Bentley
ABC 2004, first published 2002

Fox, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks

This picture book combines two of Australia’s best-known names in picture books – author Maragret Wild and illustrator Ron Brooks. In the four years since it was first published it has assumed classic status as a truly memorable and great example of the picture book form.

The fable like story tells of an unusual friendship between a dog and a magpie. Magpie’s wing is injured in a fire and she can no longer fly. She is looked after by Dog, who wills her to get better. He is blind in one eye. He puts Magpie on his back and runs with her. Magpie tells Dog that he can be her wings and she will be his missing eye. The friendship continues until a Fox arrives. Seeing the pair cosily together, he conspires to part them. He cajoles Magpie to come with him. He can run faster than Dog and Magpie will love the feeling of really flying on Fox’s back. When Magpie finally agrees, Fox abandons her in the desert, telling her that now she and Dog will learn what it is like to be truly alone. The story ends with Magpie, regretting her abandonment of Dog, beginning the slow journey back to her friend.

This is a story which grips the reader. The temptation of the fox and his leading Magpie into the desert has a biblical quality, and the seemingly sad ending still rings with the courage of the flightless Magpie hopping towards home across the desert.

Brooks’ illustrations and hand-lettering add to the myth-like feel of the story. This print, the use of collage and the reds and ochres prevalent in the book all combine to create an illusion of age, as if this a story created long ago and perhaps drawn on ancient parchment or etched on a cave wall. The dark colours of the illustrations also reflect the serious tone of the tale.

With this tone, Fox may not make for fun bedtime reading, but it is an outstanding book which kids will be drawn to and which will encourage discussion about friendship, loyalty and betrayal. It would also make an excellent classroom text for literature study and visual literacy lessons.


Fox, by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks
Allen & Unwin, First Published 2000, new edition 2004

Too Many Monkeys, by Margaret Wild

Mum, Dad, Eenie, Meenie and Baby Mo live in the jungle in a tree that is just the right size for a family of five. But when Granny and Grandpa come to visit, suddenly the tree is not big enough any more. So begins a funny chain of events as the family move from tree to tree and more and more relatives come to stay. Each new arrival heralds the need for a new move to a tree with more room.

Youngsters will love the silliness of this cumulative story and will enjoy predicting what will happen next. The ending, which shows the extended family finding a whole clump of trees with branches that touch – allowing each smaller family unit their own tree – is not only satisfying in the context of the story, but also gently paralells the human world, where families can be close yet still give each other room.

The gouache illustrations of Sally Rippin are delightful, with the various monkeys coloured in rich blues, purples and reds, and each monkey uniquely defined. The backgrounds are also bright and the book’s cover, with crowded monkeys within a black frame is eye-catching.

Like all of Margaert Wild’s picture books, Too Many Monkeys is bound to be a success.

Too Many Monkeys, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Sally Rippin
Omnibus, 2004

Baby Boomsticks, by Margaret Wild

When a teeny-tiny mum and a teeny-tiny dad have a great big baby, they are very proud. He is a wonder and a joy. But Baby Boomsticks is so big that the other villagers won’t let their babies play with him. They are scared of a baby who is bigger than the houses and bigger than the trees.

So Baby Boomsticks has no friends, which makes him very sad. But one day, something happens. The village is flooded and only Baby Boomsticks can save his mum, his dad and all the other villagers. The other villagers soon see that Baby Boomsticks is a hero.

Baby Boomsticks is the latest picture book offering from award-winning Aussie author, Margaret wild. The illustrations by David Legge are a delight, with gouache and oil paintings of a delightfully cherubic Baby Boomsticks and his dwarfish neighbours.


Baby Boomsticks, written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by David Legge
ABC Books, 2003

One Night, by Margaret Wild

Three boys – Bram, Al and Gabe – are drawn together by their common lack of wholeness. Bram plans incredible parties which take place in various houses – wherever there is a parentless house for the weekend. The parties are wild and amazing, planned to precision. Bram even takes preparty photographs to make sure the house is returned to the state in which it was found.

One night, Helen comes to one of the parties. She is not the sort of girl Gabe likes – her face is deformed. But she sees through him and sees the void where his heart should be. She is drawn to him and they connect.

Helen’s life is changed irrevokably by that meeting, but Gabe’s continues on as before. Until one night the secret world he shares with his two friends tumbles down.

One Night is an incredible novel in verse by Margaret Wild. The free verse style lends a bare-bones feel – fluff and fill have been excluded, leaving the raw emotion of youth for the reader to access and experience.

This is Wild’s second verse novel. The first Jinx was shorlisted for a swag of awards. One Night is sure to meet similar acclaim.

One Night, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Kiss, Kiss, by Margaret Wild

When Baby Hippo wakes up he hurries off to play, without stopping to give his mother a kiss. Leaving his disappointed mum behind, he waddles through the mud, around the bumpy rocks, up the mossy bank and under the leafy trees.

Everywhere he goes, Baby Hippo hears the same sound – ‘Kiss, kiss!’ – as the other baby animals kiss their parents good morning. When he remembers that he’s forgotten to do the same, he hurries home. But where is his mother?

Kiss, Kiss! is a delightful new offering from acclaimed author Margaret Wild. The text is simple and rhythmic, with youngsters able to predict the ‘Kiss, kiss,” repeated throughout the story. The illustrations of Bridget Strevens-Mazro are a perfect complement, with the gentle colours of nature and an endearing Baby Hippo.

A lovely work.

Kiss, Kiss!, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Mazro
Little Hare, 2003

Jinx, by Margaret Wild

Do not love me.
Be warned!
I am Jinx.

Margaret Wild is best known for her award winning picture books, including Fox and Old Pig. In Jinx she makes her debut as a writer of young adult fiction. Readers can only hope that this is a genre she stays with.

Jinx deals with topics not new to YA Fiction – including teenage angst and youth suicide – yet does it in a style which is both refreshing and daring.

Jinx is told in blank verse, which ensures that every word is carefully chosen and loaded with meaning. It also makes the novel a fairly quick read and accessible to readers of all abilities.

Jinx hasn’t always been called Jinx. She used to be called Jen, before she became a Jinx. Now, no one is safe around her. Her parents have split up, her boyfriends are dying. Perhaps everyone should stay away from her.

Jen’s story is a poignant one, dealing with serious topics, yet doing so with a gentle humour which prevents it from being either black or preachy.

is excellent both for private reading and for class study, for children aged 14 and over. It is short listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2002.

Jinx, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2001