Monday, 29 December 2014

"Audrey (cow)" by Dan Bar-El (book review)

Happy festive season!  New Years is coming up, and while I'm not typically a maker of resolutions, part of me would like to pledge to read more books.  Right now I read about 2 per month, which is only 24 books a year.  Which is probably good for your average person, but we're talking LIBRARIAN standards here people!  At any rate, holiday vacation is a good time to tear through some tough reads, so I've got some Kobo Abe and Angela Carter to catch up on before I go back to work next week.  But in the meantime, got another great advance copy from Librarything to talk about!

 Audrey (cow) by Dan Bar-El

I'm totally guilty of judging a book by it's cover on this one.  I originally requested this book from Librarything because I LOVED the cover art.  It's beautiful, colorful and inspiring.  Illustrated by Tatiana Mai-Wyss, the illustrations in Audrey are just as good as the story and add a beautiful whimsical touch to what can be at times a serious story about an unusual cow.
Audrey knows that there are three types of cows, and that she herself falls into the unfortunate category of "food cow", and will one day be trucked off to the abattoir (which is somewhat confusingly referred to as "Abbot's War" in the story, not sure kids would get it).  After hearing stories of bravery and escape involving other cows, Audrey and her friends hatch a plan to free Audrey from her fate.
As a vegan, I loved the premise of this book for several reasons.  Firstly and obviously, I loved that Audrey is expressed as a thinking, caring, loving individual who wants nothing more than to be alive.  Though the animals are occasionally anthropomorphized and some of their actions are a bit of a stretch, it is so wonderful to have a story from a farm animal's perspective when so many people are so drastically out of touch with animals typically raised for slaughter.  Audrey's enjoyments come from being able to climb a hill, gaze at the stars, and eat the sweetest flowers and grasses.  Dan Bar-El has lovingly crafted personalities for each of the farm animals while at the same time generally maintaining their distinctive animal natures.  Another reason to love this book, beyond the empathy it inspires for animals, is that it teaches the idea of independence and rejects blind acceptance of tradition.  This is especially valuable for the pre-teen audience of this book.  Audrey refuses to accept her fate as "just the way things are", which is a great lesson for all children.
Overall, despite occasional hiccups in the progression of the story, I loved Audrey (cow).  While it`s a great adventure story that can certainly be enjoyed by everyone, I think vegetarian children would especially enjoy it for the affirmation of loving kindness towards all creatures, and demonstration of how positive change can be inspired by a single individual.

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