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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Cow Belle Beauty Queen
by Leena Parkkinen
Age Range: 6-8
Finding a cow having a bath scrubbing its back with the loo brush is not the sort of thing you expect to find in your bathroom! Eight-year-old Milena is innocently brushing her teeth when she hears a lot of splashing noises. With her mum downstairs watching TV, Milena must make sure the cow doesn’t make too much noise, which is easier said than done!
This very unusual talking cow is called Semi-Skimmed Tetra Pac is very ambitious: she wants to take part in the Cow Belle Beauty Queen pageant, but there is one problem, the competition is fierce and Semi-Skimmed is rather skinny for a cow. It is up to Milena to help Semi-Skimmed win against, the bullying Hefty Hoofington and her simpering sidekicks Snippy and Snooty.
This funny story from Finnish author Leena Parkkinen, translated by Ruth Urbom, has much more to it than just comic value because there is real pathos too. Young readers will empathise with Milena over the party incident which shows Milena’s mother is so out of touch with the fashion trends of young people. She makes Milena wear a frilly dress with puff sleeves which is in sharp contrast to the other children who are all wearing trendy jeans, trainers and ‘cool’ T-shirts that her mum says are not suitable for little girls. As Milena becomes the object of mockery by the other children she takes revenge with the birthday cake. Milena’s mother is portrayed as something of a sorry figure; permanently lying on the sofa in front of the TV watching soaps eating ice cream and often crying.
There are some wonderful pen and ink and watercolour illustrations in black and green by Katja Wehner. Lovely comic vignette of Milena’s mum staring at the coffee machine with larger images of Semi-Skimmed in the bath and training for the pageant.