October 04, 2005

Where's My Cow?, by Terry Pratchett

This is an odd little book, written as a companion to Pratchett's new Discworld novel, Thud!. Sam Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, has a standing engagement every evening at six o'clock--no matter what else is going on, he hurries home to read a bedtime story to his very small boy, Young Sam. And not just any book, but Young Sam's favorite book in the world, Where's My Cow?:

Where's my cow?
Is that my cow?
It goes "Baaa".
It is a sheep.
That's not my cow!

Speaking as a father, I've read dozens of books just like this. But Where's My Cow? isn't just another kid's book; it's a book about Sam Vimes reading a book called Where's My Cow to Young Sam, complete with pictures of Sam Vimes making all of the assorted noises. (My favorite is the Hippopotamus: it goes "HRUUUUUGH!") And partway through the book, Sam begins to ask himself...why is he reading a book about the noises made by barnyard animals to Young Sam when Young Sam is going to grow up in the city and will never encounter barnyard animals except on a plate? What if Where's My Cow were about the noises Sam hears every day as he travels about Ankh-Morpork?

And so Sam Vimes begins to embellish the book a bit, and extemporize, and spread himself considerably....until Lady Sybil comes in and gives him the eye.

Speaking as a father, I've done this myself, hundreds of times, with one book or another (for example...but then, perhaps we should pass lightly over Princess Jewelianna and the Sparkling Rainbow Ball, in which all of the tasteless princesses dress most excruciatingly gaudy. One day my little girl is going to learn to read, and I'm going to be in big trouble.)

Anyway, Where's My Cow is good fun, if a bit lightweight, and the pictures are excellent. If you're both a parent and a Discworld fan, you owe it to yourself to get a copy. I gave Jane a copy as an anniversary present; she was thrilled. No, really, she was, and she sat in my lap while I read it to her. And then we went back to Thud!, which I expect we'll finish tonight.

If you're not a Discworld fan or a parent, though, give it a miss, because most of the book will go right over your head.

Posted by Will Duquette at October 4, 2005 07:19 PM