Snape and Steele give readers a modern twist.
Old MacDonald is a going-gray-around-the-temples beige-skinned man with a black husband and a beige-skinned baby. When his husband drives off in the morning, MacDonald is left in charge of the child with help from his pets—and eventually the entire barnyard, as with each stanza a new animal joins the action. Steele’s bright, cartoon-style illustrations sell the zaniness of a new dad’s day. They elevate the story as bipedal animals assist the harried dad with the increasing chaos, but they can’t save it. Snape’s word choice often fights the tempo of the song, and the few moments of alliteration may create tongue-twisters during read-alouds: “And for that baby he sang a song, / E-I-E-I-O. / With a boom-boom here, / And a crash-bang there, // Here’s a clap, there’s a whack, / Everywhere’s a raucous ruckus!” The constantly changing language—so different from the song’s patterning—makes it impossible for a child or a group of children to sing along. The joy of “Old MacDonald” is the call-and-response opportunity offered with each additional animal. What does a goat say again? In this version, adults may chuckle at the memory of the frantic early years, but children will feel frustrated that they have limited moments to join in the fun. It sinks some really good illustrations.
This Old MacDonald’s not much fun. E-I-E-I-O. (Picture book. 4-6)