Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: A Cow for Jaya

(Blogjob tags: 1960’sadolescent embarrassmentcows gain weight slowlyHeifer Projectlarge animal rescuevillage in India.)

Title: A Cow for Jaya
Author: Eva Grant
Date: 1973
Publisher: Coward McCann & Geoghegan
ISBN: none, but click the picture to buy it on Amazon
Length: 64 pages, most with text
Illustrations: drawings by Michael Hampshire, some partly colored
Quote: “When Jaya entered his house, he found his father counting the rupees he was saving to buy the cow.”
A Cow for Jaya was obviously meant to give primary school readers a mental picture of a village in India during the mid-twentieth century. The houses and furniture, the clothes people wear, and the scrawny old cow Jaya’s parents have saved up to buy, could have been drawn from old photos. This blog has a few readers in India; I hope they’ll be kind enough to tell us how much these pictures have aged, whether this book still shows the way some villages look or is as amusingly outdated as Glen Rounds’ drawings for Squash Pie.
The story is true to life, although it’s been oversimplified. Jaya doesn’t like the look of his family’s new cow, Khubi—not because she belongs to a breed that looks strange to Americans, but because she’s skinny, too undernourished to give milk. But an adult who wants to thank Jaya for doing a good deed offers a decoration for his cow. Now that the cow is associated with such good memories, she starts to look better to Jaya.
It’s the last part of the story, in which Khubi’s “rich milk filled the pail,” that may need explanation to children. Cows don’t gain weight and give milk merely because someone loves them. In real life, Khubi would have been fed and perhaps treated for diseases for a few months before becoming able to produce a calf and give milk. As Rita Mae Brown explains in Animal Magnetism, grazing animals’ high-fibre, low-fat, and high-activity lifestyle allows them to lose weight fast and regain weight very slowly...and misguided animal lovers often attempt to “rescue” a cow or horse who looks underfed from humans who are trying to feed and care for it. And it’s also normal, even necessary, for a healthy cow to stop giving milk for at least a few weeks between calves.
This book is particularly recommended to families (or primary school classes) who are interested in looking up facts about India...or in rescuing a cow.
Some Amazon reviewers mentioned that this book raises questions about how we understand wealth and poverty. It does that. It may also raise memories of my late e-friend Ozarque's favorite charity, (Arkansas-based) Heifer International. This organization purchases animals for needy farmers who would feel richer if they had a cow, goat, or even a hen. If any rich people reading this review want a quick tax write-off, they might want to check out that web site.
Is it a Fair Trade Book? Amazon has a page for a currently active author using the name Eva Grant, but that author doesn't sound like the same Eva Grant who's written a few dozen picture books for children. The author of A Cow for Jaya might still be writing picture books; some picture books by Eva Grant have been published as recently as 2013. However, a lot of people, including the sister of a notorious criminal, have used the name "Eva Grant" and at the time of posting I'm not sure which, if any, of the people using that name in cyberspace is the author of this book.
If you buy this book from me, however, I'll write to the publisher and try to find out whether the writer can use 10% of the total price for each book sold. For the paperback, which has not yet gone into collectors' pricing, that would be our standard $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, which includes $1 per book sent to the writer (if living) or her/his charity. You could fit several other books into a package with this one; if you ordered six copies of A Cow for Jaya, you'd send a total of $35 to either address at the very bottom of the screen, and, if I can find her, I'll send Grant or a charity of her choice $6.