Baa, Baa, Black Sheep is probably my favorite nursery rhyme--I sang both my children to sleep for years with Raffi's extended version, Cluck, Cluck Red Hen (Milly still likes to hear it at bedtime). In Raffi's version, the singer asks a hen for eggs, a cow for milk, and a bee for honey. Here's the exchange with the cow:
Moo, moo, brown cow, have you milk for me?
Yes, sir, yes, sir, sweet as it can be.
Churn it into butter or make it into cheese.
Freeze it into ice cream or drink it if you please.
The little boy in Phyllis Gershator's new picture book Moo, Moo, Brown Cow (illustrated by Giselle Potter; Random House, 2011) does the same sort of thing (he also asks a gray goose for down, but otherwise the animals are the same); however, Gershator's narrative is more purposeful: the little boy is looking for a blanket for his bed, a pillow for his head, and a sweet and simple bedtime snack of bread and honey with a glass of milk. Here's his exchange with the cow for comparison:
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.
It's also a little more difficult to sing (lines 3 and 4 of each stanza especially), but even I was able to manage it. The reward comes in the closing stanzas, when animals and boy alike go to bed ("in the hive... / in the barn... / in the coop... / in the shed"). Giselle Potter's final illustration shows him tucked in bed with his own collection of farm animals (there's even a bee mobile), dreaming of jumping over the moon.
Potter's palette could have been inspired by the classic colors of old-fashioned milk paint, which lends her work here a folksy farm feel. My favorite illustration is this one of the black sheep knitting the boy's blanket out of a ball of his or her own curly wool:
Bonus points for showing the sheep holding the needles correctly; how many times have you seen them pointing up in picture books?