CM . . . .
Volume V Number 17 . . . . April 23, 1999
Nadine is a contented cow who loves her life on the farm, her stone collection and old farmer Pete. She is nicknamed Queen Nadine by the other cows who mistake her aloofness and complacency for a superior air. One day Nadine discovers a white oval stone and adds it to her collection. The other cows, recognizing an egg, snidely advise her to handle it carefully and keep it warm. For weeks, Nadine treasures it; singing to it, sitting on it, and covering it up each night before she leaves the pasture. But one morning, instead of being led to the pasture, the cows are trucked to a new farm because Pete was finding a dairy farm too much to handle. Nadine pines for her farm, for Pete, and especially for her remarkable stone. Finally, after all attempts to rouse Nadine fail, Pete fetches her home where she bounds out of his truck "like a gazelle" to check on her stone. She is heartbroken when she finds it shattered, but, when a baby chick miraculously appears and bonds with Nadine, she is amazed and somewhat comforted. The chick and Nadine become inseparable and when, as a full-grown chicken, it continues to perch on her head, it so resembles a crown that folks affectionately call her Queen Nadine.
There is much to enjoy in this gentle story. In both words and pictures, Kovalski has painted Nadine as an endearing, if foolish, character. Unlike the noodlehead in The Mare's Egg, who mistakenly believes a pumpkin to be an egg, Nadine's innocence is rewarded. Kovalski's skill as an illustrator is evident as she imparts mood through a judicious use of colour and design. In the opening pages, she has created two separate pictures; one of a solitary Nadine viewing the pastoral countryside, while Pete fixes a fence nearby; and another where all the other cows are crowded together gossiping. This immediately sets the tone, and the cheerful summery greens that prevail throughout the book provide an emotional contrast when interrupted by the strident blacks and whites of the bawling cows inside the truck or the subdued browns when Pete contemplates selling the cows. The callousness of the other cows emphasizes Nadine's compassionate nature, and children will commiserate with her. They will, however, quickly grasp the truth of the oval stone, especially with the visual clues provided in the illustrations, and will delight in its satisfying conclusion.
Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre of the Centre for Instructional Services in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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