________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006


Only a Cow.

Arlene Hamilton. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55041-871-8.

Subject Headings:
Cows-Juvenile fiction.
Domestic animals-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

***½ /4

Reviewed from f&g’s.


Lucille looked back at her friends, still lazily chewing their cud.

“Bertha,” she said, “day in and day out we just stand around in this same old field. Don’t you ever feel like doing something more?”

Bertha looked puzzled. “No,” she replied. “This is what cows do.”

“Well, we could do something different for a change. Something exciting.”

“Lucille, we’re only cows. Cows aren’t exciting,” said Bertha.


At some point or another, most of us have wished for a little more excitement in our lives. So it is with Lucille, who tires of her humdrum cow life and tires also of being constantly told that she is ONLY a cow. Arlene Hamilton’s book, Only A Cow, is for all of us who have dreamed of injecting excitement into our daily routines. 

     Despite the physical limitations of her cow body, and despite the low expectations of those around her, Lucille is inspired by Thunder, the sleek and powerful racehorse who gallops around the next field. Lucille challenges her herd of cows to a race. Her friends stare at her in disdain and then sidle away, “mumbling something about heart attacks.”

internal art

     Predictably, Lucille does eventually get her chance to race against Thunder and the other racehorses. Hamilton, however, avoids the inexplicable scene of Lucille storming ahead to defeat the horses. Rather, we get a far less predictable, and far more satisfying, result as Lucille quickly realizes how demanding a horse race can be.

     Dean Griffiths’ watercolour paintings add to the enjoyment of a story well told. The horse race scenes are especially well done. The reader gets a real sense of the power of those mighty animals as they charge around the track. When looking at the paintings, one can almost hear the thundering of the hooves on the soft track as they kick up tufts of dirt and grass. The sharp crack of the whip seems equally audible as horse and jockey strain for the lead.

     My family recently enjoyed the movie, Dreamer (DreamWorks, 2005), starring Dakota Fanning. Not long ago, we also saw the movie, Racing Stripes (Warner Brothers, 2005), so my young daughters are in somewhat of a “horse racing mindset” at present and, as such, they both thoroughly enjoyed the horse racing involved in Only A Cow. Readers will notice similarities between Racing Stripes and Hamilton’s book, but the different media engender sufficient differences for the similarities in theme to not be a distraction.

      My seven-year-old so enjoyed the book that she asked me to request a sequel. Bronwyn was even so bold as to provide her own suggestion for the next instalment! If you are stuck for a story idea, Ms. Hamilton, Bronwyn figures it will be fun to see Thunder try to win a ribbon at next year’s County Fair Cow Show. For the time being, however, as long as the Hamilton and Griffiths' collaborations continue to provide such rewarding results, we will continue to enjoy our roles as readers and leave the roles of writer and illustrator to the two of you.

     Job well done.

Highly Recommended.

Gregory Bryan teaches literacy education and children’s literature classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.