Picture Books – Everywhere the Cow Says Moo

You’re out for a walk with your toddler, when you come across a dog. Chances are good that you’re going to turn to your child and ask, “What does a dog say?”, then clap when the toddler enthusiastically yells “woof woof!” But that assumes you’re speaking English. If you were re-enacting this scene using another language, the dog wouldn’t say woof woof. Despite the fact that we tend to view the onomatopoeic animal sounds as being essentially universal, they are not. Every language has its own version of a dog’s bark or rooster’s crow.

This is the basic idea behind Everywhere the Cow Says Moo. An animal is presented, with it’s sound in English, then Spanish, then French, and finally Japanese (written with English letters for easy pronunciation, though the Japanese characters are found in the back of the book.) We learn how these languages characterize the noises of dogs, ducks, frogs, and roosters. After each animal, is the phrase “But everywhere the cow says Moo.” The central conceit is a good one, though I am forced to point out that at least three online sources stated that in France the cow says “meuh”. I don’t speak French, so it’s quite possible that it’s pronounced “moo” and (like the Spanish word, which is actually spelled muu) the author is taking a little artistic license and only paying attention to the pronunciation of the word.

The illustrations are solidly good, with thick black outlines and bright colors. Each animal is featured with an iconic symbol of the country the language is named after (giving us pictures of England, but not Canada or the US, pictures of Spain but not of Latin America or Mexico). Examples include the London Bridge, a flamenco dancer, and a cherry tree in blossom.


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