Book review: Old MacDonald’s Aussie Farm (board book)

29 06 2011

Old MacDonald’s Aussie Farm by Susan Hall, ill. Naomi Zouwer and John Gould, National Library of Australia ISBN 9780642277213

I was sent a review copy of this book from the publisher.

"Old MacDonald's Aussie Farm (cover)"

I do love singing ‘Old MacDonald had a Farm’ (E-I-E-I-O) with young children and hearing them jump in with the names of animals and the sounds they make. In this Australian version of the song, ‘Old MacDonald had some land’ is repeated and a variety of Australian animals and birds are introduced. Rather than the sounds the animals make (there are no cows going Moo, Moo here), we learn about how they behave—kangaroos, wombats and bats bounce, waddle, flap and so on, and on, and on!

Naomi Zouwer’s illustrations on the left-hand pages show Old MacDonald going about his day—and night—mending fences, driving a tractor and a ute, watching the stars with his dog etc. The illustrations of the animals and birds on the right-hand pages are reproduced from John Gould’s The Birds of Australia: in seven volumes from 1848, and The Mammals of Australia: in three volumes from 1863. Zouwer’s and Gould’s illustrations complement each other beautifully.

I predict toddlers to preschoolers will adore this board book. Sturdy pages means the book can take a lot of re-reading and heavy handling. Details like each animal’s/bird’s footprints around Gould’s illustration can lead to further discussion about each animal/bird as they are mentioned in the song.

I confess I’m not usually excited about books that update or adapt an old favourite—often it doesn’t quite work, and I’d rather read the original. But this one is different and, yes, I’m a fan. It would make a fabulous gift for a child overseas, too.

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