I discovered Lori Mortensen’s book, Cindy Moo, last spring and fell in love with it. From the cheery cover to the expressive cows within the book, Jeff Mack’s illustrations are a perfect match for the text. I had planned to use the story with my students when I first read the book but it was due back at the city library before I had the chance. This week, my students finally got to meet Cindy Moo.
The story begins when a charming barnyard cow eavesdrops at a farmhouse window where she hears a child reading the nursery rhyme,
“Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon.”
Eyes wide, ears perked, Cindy Moo puts a hoof to her mouth and smiles. She is inspired by the cow of the nursery rhyme and hopes to follow his example. The other cows of Diddle farm don’t share her optimism and an argument ensues about the probability of a cow actually making it over the moon.
“The cows began to argue.
Each took a different side.
But in the end they all confessed
that none of them had tried.
So Cindy Moo raised up a hoof
and said that it was true.
‘If that cow could jump the moon,
by golly, I can too.’ ’’
My students loved the rhyming text, the charming illustrations and the optimistic cow. When they first heard the words “debate” and scoffed,” they didn’t understand their meaning, but a quick vocabulary lesson took care of the issue. The book opened up other learning opportunities as well. We talked about rhyming words and used Mortensen’s premise to create stories of our own.
We wondered; what if a barn cat was listening at the window instead of a cow. And what if that cat heard the line, “Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle;” what would he think?
Ariel decided we should give our imaginary barn cat a name and she suggested Andro. Mariah thought the cat should sneak into the house looking for a fiddle to play. Malachi suggested he wouldn’t know what a fiddle was so first he’d try to find out. That opened up some wild possibilities. Andrea thought perhaps there should be a dog in our story named “Fiddle”.
We moved from plot ideas to rhyming structure and compiled lists of words to use in our story. We especially had fun with “fiddle,” “middle” and “riddle.” Our story isn’t complete yet but this activity kept several five and six-year-old students fully engaged. All the while, they were working on the common core standards: learning new vocabulary, recognizing and producing rhyming words, and retelling stories. We may not end up with a book to compete with Lori Mortensen’s, but I can’t be too sure. The kids have caught Cindy Moo’s optimism. They now have high hopes for their writing futures and I must say – I do too.