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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Buffalo Herd by Godfrey Coppinger

by Terrance McArhtur

You remember that old lullaby, “The Mockingbird Song,” the one James Taylor and Carly Simon rocked up while they were married? “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s going to buy you a mockingbird?” You remember that sweet, gentle folk song, don’t you? The problem is, today’s children aren’t that sweet and gentle. Godfrey Coppinger recognizes that, and has livened things up in her children’s book, Buffalo Herd.

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Instead of the traditional gifts offered the child for being quiet, Godfrey promises watermelon seeds, a jungle gym, a marigold, a thingamajig, and a rainbow trout. The words are fun, the words are silly, and they will make preschoolers and young students laugh…and the grown-ups will have trouble keeping a straight face.

The illustrations in this handmade book are laughmakers, too, boldly cut from black paper, just as the letters of the text are. See: the plight of a jackrabbit running with the bison. Contemplate: a thingamajig of interlocking gears, doors, screws, and a curious mouse. Marvel at: a not-so-high-fashion ensemble of wedge heels, high-water bell-bottom trousers, a fringed vest—and an Afro wig of cotton-candy dimensions.

Image source: Godfrey Coppinger

Godfrey is a beloved storyteller/musician in the San Joaquin Valley, known to transform into Mrs. Santa in December; she has worked with preschoolers for many years. Her debut book reflects the joy and imagination she puts into every facet of her life. Every letter and picture is hand-cut and glued in place. The illustrations suggest Native American pictographs, Peter Max, and the paper cuttings of Hans Christian Anderson and Henri Matisse, infused with an outsider art sensibility.

The story-song is only 168 words long, and the explanatory material, song page, and author’s biography make a total word count of less than 250 words. It’s short enough for a just-before-bedtime treat (but be prepared to hear the word “Again!”). It’s long enough to enchant a child or set an adult to giggling. It can be a gateway book to paper-cutting creations, and a trigger to making up new lyrics to old songs.

Godfrey Coppinger is a mischievous little girl disguised as a delightful lady. Buffalo Herd is a delightful book disguised as a delightful book.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


  1. Oh, Terrance! This is an absolutely wonderful review. Thank you SO MUCH!

  2. A VERY wonderful review! Sounds delightful!