CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 32. . . April 28, 2017
Edith Newlin Chase’s The New Baby Calf, originally published in 1984, has been re-released for a new generation of young readers. The New Baby Calf was the first book to feature Barbara Reid’s now iconic plasticine illustrations.
Chase takes the reader through a young calf’s first tentative steps into the world. The text makes use of repetition as a descriptive and rhythm device; however, this repetition can sometimes feel a little heavy-handed to an adult reading aloud to a young reader. To a young reader, this repetition might work well to build vocabulary and sense of different rhythms. Certain words are repeated within a sentence, as seen in the excerpt at the start of this review, as well as phrases throughout the book. Each section of the story concludes with the phrase “And the new baby calf liked that!” (p. 7). This can help young readers to keep pace with the action and memorize the phrase by the end of the story, thereby allowing them to participate in the telling of the story. Certain pages also feature end rhyme which facilitates the book’s being read aloud.
For an adult reader, the story can seem a little old-fashioned in its simplicity and pastoral setting, but a younger reader might be engaged by this straightforward story about a baby calf. Because the text is highly action-based, it is easy for readers to imagine what a new baby calf taking “a very little walk, a teeny little walk, a tiny little walk” (p. 9) might look like. Like a still from a movie, Reid’s illustrations prompt a reader to see the scene play out in his or her mind.
Reid’s technique of applying sculpted plasticine layers to illustration board demonstrates her incredible dedication and focus on detail. There is so much for a reader to examine closely. In an illustration that shows the cows resting in a field with the farmer and his dog (p. 27), Reid goes into detail to sculpt the zipper and stitching detail on the farmer’s overalls and jacket. Every square inch of her illustrations is packed with texture and vibrancy. In addition to this detail, each illustration is also thoughtfully composed with liveliness and a sense of fun. Her illustrations draw readers into a lush, tactile visual world and encourage them to explore the story beyond what is written on the page.
The New Baby Calf is a sweet story, and when paired with Reid’s engaging illustrations, makes this book a recommended read.
Sabrina Wong is the Teaching and Outreach Librarian at Capilano University in North Vancouver, BC.
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