The Cow Tripped over the Moon
Scholastic Press, 2015
32pp., hbk., RRP $24.99
Hey diddle diddle
You all know the riddle
A cow jumps over the moon.
It happened, all right,
On a crisp, cloudless night
On the second-last Friday in June.
But it didn’t happen on the first attempt, or the second or even the third.
As the cow, the cat, the fiddle, the dog, the dish and the spoon sit on the barn roof and watch the moan soar gracefully overhead they decide to make the traditional rhyme come true.
But what they don’t say in the songs from that day
Is the cow didn’t jump it first time.
It seems a moon clearance takes great perseverance…
And that is the underlying theme of this superb story from Tony Wilson and perfectly illustrated by Laura Wood.
The cow’s first attempt was at 9.17 pm when with little preparation or assistance, the cow made her first leap and fell flat on her face! “She never did make it to space”. She’d tripped over the little dog Rover! But she was not to be deterred. Using all sorts of techniques including pole-vaulting and a trampoline, she tried and tried again with the help of her friends who were as determined as she was that she would succeed. Even taking a wrong turn and feeling the burn of the sun just made her more determined. Until on her seventh attempt just as day was dawning and the moon was disappearing…
It is no wonder that this was an Honour Book in the Early Childhood category of the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards. As a standalone story about perseverance, resilience and friendship it is a masterpiece for offering children the hope and encouragement to keep trying and trying until they get all these new things they have to learn and achieve sorted – that growth mindset and determination to succeed that is becoming such a part of the focus on their emotional being these days. By using a familiar rhyme that the age group will relate to rather than an anonymous character for whom there is no connection and its familiar rhythm Wilson has engaged them straight away and right from the get-go they are willing the cow to succeed. They will even offer suggestions about how the friends can support the cow or what they would do to help, helping them to put themselves in the shoes of others and build empathy, respect and a feeling of responsibility to help – more of that consideration for others and positivity for their endeavours essential for mental wellbeing.
But the real story behind the story is its dedication to the author’s son Jack who suffers from cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability affecting childhood.
“Cerebral palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is a permanent life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance.” Steptember, 2016
Every 15 hours an Australian child is born with cerebral palsy – that’s one in every 500 births. Tony Wilson’s child Jack is one of those ones and on his blog he talks about Jack’s daily struggle to do something as seemingly simple and everyday as putting a piece of pasta in his mouth. It’s about his goal of being able to walk 100 steps in a day over three sessions while nearly 70 000 people (including me, my son and my granddaughter) are endeavouring to do 10 000 steps a day to raise funds to help with treatment and equipment.
But it’s also about children like Ollie a little boy I met at the school I was teaching at last year; it’s about Jayden whom I taught years ago and who is now representing Australia at the Paralympics in Rio; and it’s about all the other 34 000 Australians living with the condition and the 17 000 000 worldwide. And with no known cure that’s a lot of people for whom living the normal life we take for granted is about as possible as the cow jumping over the moon.
There are many teaching resources to support The Cow Jumped Over the Moon available via an Internet search but if you want to learn more go to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and if you want to help, donate to Steptember. Our team is called The Waddlers but any donation to the cause is welcome.
Tony Wilson and Laura Wood – it’s an honour to review this book. I hope it spreads the message about all the Jacks there are and builds awareness and raises funds.