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Chicken, Pig, Cow and the Purple Problem

by Ruth Ohi

Chicken, Pig, and Cow are clay figures created by Girl. Pig is pink, Chicken is yellow, and Cow … well, when Girl made Cow, she had only purple clay left for the spots, so Cow is white and purple.

This never bothered Cow before, but now she has noticed that other cows, the ones in picture books, are brown, grey, black, or even plain white – never purple. Unconsoled by her friends’ reassurances, Cow wanders off to look for a way to change her colour.

First, she rolls in grey mud. Then she gets covered in a shower of brown birdseed, sent down from a bird feeder by a marauding squirrel. With the help of the squirrel, Cow also finds acorn lids to use as hoofs.

In Cow’s eyes, these cosmetic changes make her “more like a cow,” although to us readers, she looks simply comical. In any case, the change is not enough to fool Cow’s closest friends – they see through the mess to the real Cow: “‘Purple or not,’ said Pig, ‘you are Cow.’”

As always, Ohi’s warm watercolours bring her subjects to life. Her prose is spare and evocative, full of simple sentences that pack in loads of humour, warmth, and character. And in the simplest, least preachy way, she deals with the great challenges of early childhood: achieving independence, making friends, and developing a sense of self.

It helps to have read the first two Chicken, Pig, Cow books before reading this one, if only to see how the three friends’ sense of independence grows with each new adventure. But in the end, it’s not essential to read them in order – just read them.