Kid’s Review: Pretend Cows

Kid’s Review: Pretend Cows

About the Book and Author

This is an evocative short story in the Country Tales series about children growing up in the countryside. Maxy is upset when her parents’ farm is left without animals after a health scare, but she keeps their memory alive looking after her own ‘pretend cows’. When her mum falls ill whilst pregnant and has to go to hospital Maxy has to spend a lot of time on her own. Then her father starts to keep chickens and asks Maxy to help to look after them. She finds comfort in the distraction of this new responsibility, settling the hens and encouraging them to feel secure enough to lay eggs in their new home. It is beautifully illustrated in black and white by Cathy Fisher and published by Graffeg.

Pretend Cows fron cover

Nicola is an award-winning author, whose many books for children include The Promise (Green Earth Book Award 2015, Greenaway Shortlist 2015), Tiny (AAAS Subaru Prize 2015), A First Book of Nature, Whale Boy (Blue Peter Award Shortlist 2014), and the Heroes of the Wild Series (Portsmouth Book Prize 2014) and The Day the War Came. She graduated in zoology, studied whales and bats and then worked in the BBC Nature History Unit as a TV and radio presenter before qualifying in Creative Writing.

Underlying all Nicola’s writing is the belief that a relationship with nature is essential to every human being, and that now, more than ever, we need to renew that relationship.To find out more visit her website.

Book Review

My favourite bit is when Maxy is dreaming about rescuing her favourite hen Minerva, or is it just a dream?

The title is a bit misleading because the story doesn’t really revolve around cows, it is more about hens. When the hens appeared I found it very touching that Maxy finally has some real animals to look after and love. For me, this is the best part of the book and I started to really get involved with the main character. Introducing the hens is a really nice twist and it helps Maxy overcome the loss of the other farm animals and her worry about her mum being poorly and in hospital.  She really cares for them, especially the one she named Minerva.

I think that the idea of a farm with ‘pretend cows’ is so sweet and could have been full of emotion, but I was disappointed that the short story did not allow much build up about the background circumstances; instead it went straight to the main point. I would have liked to get to know the farm animals and the family, before all the animals were put down, then I could have learned more about their characters and feel more connected to them and their upsetting situation. It is also quite vague about why the animals had to die, but perhaps this was described in an earlier book in the author’s Country Tales series…

Nicola Davies’ writing creates a magical and vivid scene, full of lovely similes and descriptions. Some of the scenes are very beautiful. The illustrations (done by Cathy Fisher) are so detailed and dreamlike.
This book is great and full of imagination, although I think it would be enjoyed more by younger children than myself (I am aged 11).

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Reviewer Profile

Junior Reviewer Elsie
  • Name: Elsie
  • Age: 11 years
  • Likes: Monsters High, my pet hens and sewing clothes
  • Dislikes: avocado and spiders
  • Favourite Book: The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
  • Favourite Film: Descendants (all 3 movies)
  • Favourite Song: Shivers by Rachel Platten