“Joy to the Poem” kickoff–The New Baby Calf

Nobody will be surprised to learn that the poem I’d nominate as winner of the “Most Joyful Poem” contest is “The New Baby Calf”, by Edith Newlin Chase. But it’s not for the reasons you’re thinking…

Yes, I’m a children’s literature specialist, so the first picture book Barbara Reid created in her signature style of Plasticine art is obviously going to hold a special place in my heart.

Yes, I’m a specialist in agricultural narrative, with a focus on picture books about agriculture, so a picture book about a lil bovine dude’s first year is a obvious choice for a frontrunner.

And yes, I’m a sucker for a literary synchronicity tale, so the lore of Barbara Reid’s discovery of this poem—an obscure little ditty published fifty years before she immortalized it into the 1984 picture book that’s never been out of print, is sure to warm the cockles of my heart… especially on a cold January day!

But that’s not why I love it.

It’s not even because this book—poem and illustrations alike—portrays the ultimate fulfillment of children’s rights.

It’s because of the surprise ending.

Throughout the poem, a repeating refrain assures readers/listeners that the “new baby calf” is receiving nurture of an appropriate, satisfying, and validating kind by confirming after each verse that, “the little baby calf liked that”. This pattern continues from the calf’s birth in the late winter/early spring through his coming of age in the late fall.

Then, at the end of the poem, at the end of the book, at the end of the last verse, readers/listeners are told that, thanks to all this good care, “the little baby calf grew fat!”

This delightful twist ending is all the more satisfying given its overt body positivity.

A rollicking, sing-song celebration of new life, good parenting, and fulfilled potential? Yes, please! That sounds like a joyful noise to me…

Check it out—and remember to let me know what your joyful poem sounds like!

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