Phillis Gershator







About me



Moo, moo, brown

  Moo, Moo, Brown Cow,
  Have You Any Milk?

     illustrated by Giselle Potter

    Random House, 2011

*E-Book also available!
ISBN: 9780375988714  
Format: EL/ePub

red hen

From the book jacket:

Moo, moo, Brown Cow,

have you any milk?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
smooth as silk.
Will milk make me sleepy
before I go to bed?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
the brown cow said.

     Say that again? Yes, you heard right. There’s something different going on with this well-loved nursery rhyme. Besides offering clever twists and charming new critters, this sweet retelling of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” gently teachers young listeners something along the way as a plucky little boy asks his farm friends about the gifts they give us.
     And as the animals prepare to “dream the whole night through of flowers to sip, grass to chew,” the little boy asks them one last question.
      Whether read aloud or sung, Phillis Gershator’s melodic rhyme with Giselle Potter’s folksy illustrations, can be appreciated as a rollicking tale or a perfect lulling bedtime story.

A little about the book:

     I’ve always been inspired by books about “process”––how is a blanket made? A pillow? Honey, milk, bread? And I’ve always been inspired by traditional rhymes. In Moo, Moo, Brown Cow I had a chance to combine the two!
     I also like picture books that allow for repeated reading and exploring. In Moo, Moo a young child can explore colors––not only the repeated colors of the animals but the
purple flowers, green grass, blue chicken coop.... Some other talking points for a young audience: What sounds do other farm animals make––cats, dogs, horses, goats, ducks? Where does our food come from? (Other than the supermarket!) What would a dog dream about, or a goose, or a cow?
     Children with masks (or children using puppets) might have fun performing Moo, Moo as a playlet. If there a lot of children, the "extras" could include more farm animals and even an animal chorus.     
      To sing along with the traditional tune for "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep," a parent or teacher could also add additional sing-song animal sounds for each animal, or expand the text with additional, repetitive verses for the sheep, goose, hen, bee.
        Here is the first part of the text, with some suggested additional verses in italics, along with pictures in the illustrator's style, just for fun:

Baa, baa, black sheep,
have you any wool?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,
three bags full.”

Does wool make a blanket
for my bed?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,”
the black sheep said.

Thank you for the wool
and blanket for my bed.
“You are very welcome,”
the black sheep said.


[alternative or in addition:
Baa baa baa baa
baa baa baa baa.
Baa baa baa baa,
baa baa baa.]

Honk, honk, grey goose,
have you any down?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,”
half a pound.

Does down make a pillow
for my head?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,”
the gray goose said.

Thank you for the down
and pillow for my head.
“You are very welcome,”
the gray goose said.


[alternative or in addition:
Honk honk honk honk, etc.]

Cluck, cluck, red hen,
have you eggs for me?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,
one, two, three.”

Do eggs and flour
make a loaf of bread?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,”
the red hen said.

Thank you for the eggs
and the loaf of bread.
“You are very welcome,”
the red hen said.


[alternative or in addition:
Cluck cluck cluck cluck, etc.]

Buzz, buzz, yellow bee,
have you any honey?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,
sweet and sunny.”

Does sun-sweet honey
make a tasty spread?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,”
the yellow bee said.

Thank you for the honey
and the tasty spread.
“You are very welcome,”
the yellow bee said.


[alternative or in addition:
Buzz buzz buzz buzz, etc.]

Moo, moo, brown cow,
have you any milk?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,
smooth as silk.”

Does milk make me sleepy
before I go to bed?
“Yes, sir, yes, sir,”
the brown cow said.

Thank you for the milk,
so creamy and white.
“You are very welcome.
Now I’ll say goodnight.”

[alternative or in addition:
Moo moo moo moo, etc.

From the reviews:

     "In a story that's part lullaby, part concept book, with its gentle emphasis on colors, animals, and their sounds, Gershator riffs on "Baa Baa Black Sheep" to explore a farm boy's day....Each quatrain introducing a new animal is followed by another that explains what the creature provides: 'Does sun-sweet honey make a tasty spread?'/ ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir,' the yellow bee said.' Potter's characteristically naïf illustrations play up the whimsy of the interactions; the bee, for instance, uses a honey dipper to provide the aforementioned 'tasty spread,' and the boy sits on a sweeping expanse of wool that the sheep knits while sitting in an armchair. The progression of events (yielding a blanket, pillow, and snack) naturally leads to bedtime, and a final scene, in which the animals appear as stuffed toys in the boy's bed (or, in the case of the bees, a mobile), leaves readers to ponder just how much of the day's adventures might have been imagined." Publishers Weekly

      "...Gershator uses rhyme and the melodic rhythm of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in her dialogue, making the tale fit for either singing or speaking. Potter uses soft colors for day and rich cobalt and chocolate for night in her folksy paintings. She features only essential background details, complementing the text for this soothing book." School Library Journal

     "Borrowing a soothing cadence as well as the first two lines from a certain familiar nursery rhyme,
 Gershator expands the original into a short but effectively soporific bedtime ritual. In her customary 
primitivist style and muted colors, Potter depicts a moon-faced rural lad with faraway eyes questioning a
 sheep...; then, in
 similar fashion, a goose, a hen, bees, and a cow, who give him, respectively, down for a pillow, eggs for 
bread, honey to pour on the bread, and fresh milk to go with the snack. The animals all proceed to settle
 down in their own farmyard places before transforming into plush bedside companions for the child. He 
poses a final question... before a closing scene of the cow jumping over the

 moon in a last visual nod to Mother Goose. Listeners will likely be nodding off by this point, especially if 
this book is paired with the author’s bedtime riff on “Little Red Hen,” Who’s Awake in Springtime?" Booklist

     "Through creative tweaking, a familiar nursery rhyme...returns as a cadenced lesson in farmyard enterprise as well as a comforting bedtime lullaby....Primitive, folksy, multi-hued illustrations expand the pleasantly repetitive, rhyming text...." Kirkus

"...Gershator’s rhymes tell an engaging bedtime story that is enriched by Potter’s parallel visual narrative." Horn Book

From a New York Times review of Moo, Moo, Brown Cow
Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig:

Much more calming but no less beguiling is “Moo, Moo, Brown Cow, Have You Any Milk?” by Phillis Gershator. It begins with a little boy voicing the
classic Mother Goose entreaty — “Baa Baa, black sheep, have you any wool?”— and builds from there, weaving a story out of a farmyard of animals’ contributions. “Honk, honk, gray goose, have you any down? ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir, half a pound’ ” on one page carries over to the next: “Does down make a pillow for my head? ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir,’ the gray goose said.”

Giselle Potter’s graceful paintings are done in her distinctive folk-art style, with greens and blues, adding to the effect, at once pensive and lulling. The story unwinds toward a literally dreamy ending as the farmyard animals are transfigured into stuffed toys in the little boy’s bed, complete with a black wool blanket. One of these books will happily rouse a classroom, the other gently guide it to naptime.

brown cow
  art by Giselle Potter