by Kathryn Apel. Illustrated by Warren Crossett
Hachette Children’s Books. Australian, Picture. RRP $28.99 hardback, $16.99 softcover
Sometimes with a picture book, I find it hard to decide where to begin. Do I talk text or illustration? Do I tell the story? With This is the Mud, the answer is obvious. I start right at the front, with the cover and its quirky bottom-first view of the sad, soulful cow stuck in the mud. It’s an image to make the reader smile and promises a fun, mud-spattering read.
Based on the familiar, thumping rhythm of The House that Jack Built, This is the Mud is a text that demands to be read aloud. With pomp and emphasis! With oomph, emotion and expression! I had a stirring time doing exactly that.
The is the cow who was chewing her cud,
as she went for a drink and got stuck in the mud.
The story is a universal one. The cow rescued by a team of people – the girl who raises the alarm, the dad, the neighbour with the tractor and the woman on the two-way radio. The farm could be anywhere but the occasional clue, such as ‘ute’ places it in rural Australia, a landscape author Kathryn Apel calls home.
Warren Crossett’s vivid pictures provide action, humour and confirmation that this is a picture book ‘proud to be Australian.’ The splodges of mud containing landscape reflections are an interesting graphic feature on some pages of text. My favourite illustration, other than the cover of course, is the poor cow unceremoniously and inelegantly plucked from the mud by a sling around her middle. Still, she was glad to be rescued and in the end is happily chewing her cud again.
This is the Mud is a wonderful read-aloud, rhyme-along, imagine-the-mess book. And it’s lots of fun.