Jake just loves his peaceful country life. He loves the green hills and the pristine lake and his friendly cows and the peaceful silence of nature. All that changes when Capital City decides start dumping its garbage next to his house, creating an enormous, ugly, smelly mountain of trash. Jake tries to have a reasonable conversation about the situation with the man in charge, but he insists that the garbage is beautiful, a testament to progress and modernity, and that the trash mountain would only stop growing ‘when cows fly.’ He didn’t realize how resourceful Jake could be, or that ‘when cows fly,’ their poop also flies, raining down in a virtual hailstorm of brown vengeance. Good triumphs as the poop deluge drives off the workers and fertilizes the trash mountain, bringing peace, harmony, and beauty back to Jake’s cherished home.
I found two books written and illustrated by Tom Watson on iBooks a couple of months ago. Both are have environmental conservation themes, both are free, and both make good use of disgusting bodily functions that are so timelessly hilarious to kids. ‘When Cows Fly’ has poop, ‘Garbage! Monster! Burp!’ has- well, it’s in the title. My kids liked the storied, I liked the lessons they taught, and we all had a good time reading them. The reason I decided to review these stories is that I love the illustrations. Tom Watson uses what looks like construction paper stencil cut-outs in his illustrations, which is a technique that I really enjoy, and I feel like his are really good quality. It connects to the kids because it is a medium they use all the time, and it gives everything a slightly 3-D effect. It is colorful and interesting to look at, and it makes me feel like raiding my kids’ art supplies and making something crafty.
I have two main complaints about these stories. First of all, they feel a little long to me. The stories are great, and my kids don’t get bored, but they are long- ‘When Cows Fly’ is over 50 pages long. If you’re not Dr. Seuss, it’s hard to justify 50 pages of picture book, I think. My second issue is the poetry. He’s written the stories in rhyming verse, which is very ambitious of him, and his rhymes are good and lots of his phrasing is clever, but his meter really needs work. When I read it out loud I have to work really hard to make it not sound clumsy and awkward. Good picture book verse should not make you work, it should work for you. Despite these 2 shortcomings, I still enjoyed these books a lot and my kids will surely be asking for them again.