Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Cow Cheer

All families have their holiday traditions. Some bake cookies or assemble a gingerbread house, others tune in to Merry Christmas Charlie Brown or go caroling. In mine, come Christmas Eve, we watch Mr. Magoo's A Christmas Carol (a surprisingly good adaptation with a stellar performance by Mr. Magoo as Scrooge) and read Santa Cows, a hilarious parody of Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas."

First published in 1991, Santa Cows by Cooper Edens starts with the children nestled not in their beds but in front of three TV sets and chowing down on pizza, soda, popcorn, and chips. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, mom and dad (Elwood) are eating microwaved meals of clamcakes and chopped eels.

"When all of a sudden, not the sound of reindeers,
But the mooing of Santa Cows came to our ears.
So we ran to the windows and opened the shutters.
We threw up the blinds to a sky full of udders."
"As lovely as angels," the family agreed,
And Elwood, so helpful, named each by its breed:
"Look kiddies, a Holstein, a Brown Swiss, a Jersey,
And here comes a Hereford, an Angus, a Guernsey."

The Santa cows come down the chimney and float around the living room before serenading the family with carols and presenting them with a fully decorated tree and sacks filled with presents of baseballs, bats, gloves, and caps. The group, cows included, then head outdoors to play an impromptu game of baseball in the moonlight. Top that, Clement C. Moore!

Daniel Lane's soft and fuzzy watercolor illustrations capture the warm holiday glow as well as the cows' gentleness: "Their eyes, like Liz Taylor's, were dewy and clear. Their lips, like Liz Taylor's, so rosy and dear." The many kitschy details that fill the duplex, like the Charlie the Tuna lamp that sits atop a TV set, are worth the price of the book, no longer, alas, in print. Check your local library or order a used copy from Amazon, and make this offbeat picture book the start of your holiday tradition.

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