Review By HUYEN MACMICHAEL
This adorable take on “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” made me and my daughter want to clap our hands and sing the story. We thoroughly enjoyed reading and rereading it. My daughter got a kick out of the surprise element near the end of the book (you’re going to have to read it to find out!) and she’ll pick this book out to read/sing on her own.
Jo is a girl who happens to be a little naturalist, observing and sketching the wildlife such as fish, birds, and dragonflies around a pond (coincidentally, my daughter and I have been attending a local children’s Audubon Naturalist Society activity which has a pond where we identified dragonfly nymphs and other wildlife).
Laura Bryant’s illustrations are clean and colorful and give hints of the next animal to make an appearance. I loved the way the author Mary Quattlebaum connected Jo to Old MacDonald and included Jo’s nature sketches in the story. The repetition and illustrations can help early readers begin to recognize words and the animal noises are appealing to even very young kids. Jo is inquisitive, observant, respectful of wildlife, and artistic to boot. I have high hopes my daughter can be just like Jo!
A couple pages at the end of the book offer information about pond flora and fauna as well as additional activities for kids and resources.
With a growing movement for kids to get “plugged into nature” (versus staring at a TV or computer all day) and the latest concern that kids have what author Richard Louv dubs “Nature Deficit Disorder,” this story introduces a way to get outside to explore. I’m planning on taking it out in the spring to read to my daughter (or she can read it to me) and any of our outdoor pals. It fits right in with some research I had begun this past spring and summer about progressive approaches for teaching children such as outdoor education and the forest schools of Europe. I believe experiential learning is one of the best way kids (and many adults) learn, and nature studies help kids gain a better understanding, as well as appreciation, of the bigger world around them. Young kids already have a natural interest in wildlife and Jo MacDonald models more nature exploration as well as an exciting, benevolent look at the great outdoors.