Kirkus Reviews QR Code
E-I-E-I-O by Judy Sierra


How Old Macdonald Got His Farm (with a Little Help from a Hen)

by Judy Sierra ; illustrated by Matthew Myers

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6043-7
Publisher: Candlewick

In this rhymed caper, Old MacDonald has a house—and a high-maintenance lawn that’s ripe for change.

His new goat prefers the hedges to the lawn, so Old Mac acquires a chicken. “Not your average bird was she, / but the smartest hen in history.” Little Red directs Mac through a backyard transformation that includes sheet mulching, composting, manuring (Mac gets a horse), vermicomposting (via a worm bin) and raised-bed gardening. The farmer-in-training takes flak from suburban neighbors outraged about the mud and stink that mark the transition from lawn to full-fledged minifarm. Soon, though, they’re gladly buying veggies, goat cheese and honey from “Mac and Red’s Homemade Farm” and eggs from their “Co-op Coop.” Myers’ inventive acrylic-on–illustration board paintings add a bushel of laugh-out-loud details, from documents attesting to Red’s impressive horticultural credentials to an in-your-face depiction of horse poop. (The artist takes “square-jawed” to a new dimension to depict Old Mac.) In one scene, healthy root veggies commingle with worms in three-quarters of the picture plane, while aboveground, Mac chats up an appreciative letter carrier. Bits of Sierra’s text can be sung to the familiar tune, rendering this a good choice for spring storytimes and family read-alouds.

Sierra’s upbeat look at small-scale local farming, fulsomely fertilized by Myers, yields a harvest of good fun.

(Picture book. 4-8)