Carla the Cow (The Diaries of Robin's Toys)by Ken Lake, Angie Lake Published 01 Jan 1970
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When Robin bought Carla the Cow from the car-boot sale, he was warned that she was moody and selfish, but he bought her anyway. Carla told Robin how she moaned all day long and was a bit of a loner in the herd because of it! Her story teaches Robin how to make friends and how important having friends is in life! Carla the Cow is one part of the lovely series, The Diaries of Robin's Toys! Robin and his Grandad buy a new toy from the car boot sale every weekend, and with the help of Grandad's magic spell, they bring them to life! Each toy has a fascinating new story to tell Robin, and helps to teach him some very important life lessons!
"Carla the Cow (The Diaries of Robin's Toys)" Reviews
***I received this book in a goodreads first reads giveaway.
I have major issues with this book. I believe the moral of the story is supposed to be something along the lines of "always treat people nicely even if they are not so nice to you because you don't know what they may be going through." That, however, did not come across for me.
The story revolves around a young boy Robin and his Grandad. They are going to a carboot sale (something I think American children will have trouble understanding, not to mention find boring) to find a new toy for Robin. The first person they run into, Nelly Knitwear, is described as rude, snooty and grumpy. When Robin nudges Grandad to get him to look at Nelly's grumpy face grandad comments "Well, Robin, that's the best I've seen her look for weeks." Then Grandad and Robin move on to the next stall and talk to that stall owner about Nelly's bad mood. This stall owner tells some sordid story that explains Nelly's bad mood and grandad and Robin resolve to be nicer to her and even purchase something from her later because they (direct quote) "feel sorry for her."
Robin and Grandad buy a stuffed cow and Grandad has a magical power that is not elaborated on at all but allows Carla to tell them the story of her life. First Carla is a jerk to Robin and Grandad but they finally convince her to tell her story which is much like Nelly's. She describes herself as grumpy, bad mannered, selfish and rude. Carla isn't "popular" but then makes friends with a cow in a neighboring pasture who recommends she give a gift to the cows she's offended with her rudeness in the past and Carla resolves to do just such that and finds that when she "makes and effort to be popular" she succeeds.
I see where the authors are going with this whole story but I think it could have been done infinitely better. I have huge issues with the way Robin and Grandad treat/talk about Nelly and also do not agree with Carla's emphasis on the need to be "popular". I think the use of popular as an example of something to strive for is very poor word choice for a book for young children.
In addition the formatting of the book leaves much to be desired. I think comic sans was a poor font choice and it did not appear to me that much effort had been put into the illustrations. The title of the series "The Diaries of Robin's Toys" is a bit misleading because it is not a diary at all although the pages are lined like loose-leaf to make it look like a diary. The illustrations are very plain and simple and the lines carry down the page through them taking away from them even further.
I'm not sure what age this book is meant to appeal to but I think the language is advanced for any child who would find the story entertaining. I would not recommend this book and would even go as far to say I wouldn't let my child read it as it is just overrun with negativity. In addition I wonder if children might get a bit of a complex about being sad because in this book everyone who is sad gets treated poorly by the people around them. I wouldn't want children to think it's not okay to be sad every once in awhile.
Another book in the Diaries of Robin's Toys series, Carla the Cow tells a tale about friendship and being a loner. After the wonderful tale of friendship in the last book and how Robin applied it to himself, I was surprised when this tale was used more for his grandfather and adults. It was an interesting take as well.
Carla the cow is a downer, she is mean to other cows and then when they all talk about how mean and depressing she is Carla gets more upset and rude. She later realizes that she needs to make an effort to show them who she really is and what she is really like. My biggest issue is that they way she refers to this process is 'becoming popular' and I think that the authors meant 'fitting in' or allowing people to see the real you. I think the idea of wanting to become popular is an issue that children and teens face but really the more important want is to fit in. I think a better way of going about this tale would have been to make the overall theme about being yourself, instead they went this route.
Again the book was short and pretty easy to read. I think that this one's theme was a bit harder to grasp than Bertie the Bee, especially in the application with Robin and his grandfather at the end of Carla the Cow's tale. It was cute with pictures again, but I found Bertie more enjoyable overall.
I received this book in a give away. I was surprised to see that it came from a publisher in the UK.
The print in this book, probably intended as a beginning reader, is made to look like handwriting on lined paper as in a diary (the series is called The Diaries of Robins Toys). The large size of the letters is helpful, but the lines may actually be confusing to a child, since they continue to run through the illustrations. The text has long paragraphs and a lot of quotation marks, which makes it a higher reading level than you would think by the size of the letters. The black and white, somewhat schematic illustrations match the text, but tell you no more that.
The language is simple, but for American children there might be some expressions that need explanation, such as "car boot sale". The story itself is complex with a story within the story. I cringed at the moralistic tone and the stereotyped behavior of the characters.
For all these reasons I would not give this book to children as part of a reading curriculum. They may borrow it from my library, although I don't think many will, since most children prefer colored illustrations. I will test it, and report how it goes.
Carla is an interesting cow in a strange sort of way, but she is not very happy. The other animals think she is grumpy, bad mannered, bad tempered, selfish and rude. She is never pleased and complains about everything, this being the very reason she is a lonely cow. Robin finds out that kind gestures and a positive attitude can totally change your life, so the boy helps a moody lady from the car boot sale, Nelly Knitwear, to become friends with his grandmother.
This book is just wonderful for children; it teaches them a about how your actions can drive people away or bring you closer. It teaches friendship in a way any child can relate to while throwing in some magic. You don't have to british to undrstand the message this books sends to young reads. I would deffenetly recommend this to young readers. :-)
GreaT AuThor, Ken Lake and Angie Lake