________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004


Over in the Meadow: A Traditional Counting Rhyme.

Jan Thornhill.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-897066-08-2.

Subject Headings:
Counting-out rhymes.
Children's poetry.
Animals-Juvenile poetry.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4


Over in the meadow
in the sand in the sun
Lived an old mother turtle
and her little turtle one.
"Dig!" said the mother.
"We dig!" said the 1.
So they dug all day in the
sand in the sun.


Over the years, there have been dozens of variations of this traditional southern Appalachian counting rhyme. So is there a need for a new version?

     With Jan Thornhill designing this picture book, the answer is an unqualified YES! She brings her considerable talents to adapting this famous 19th century rhyme in a most brilliant and original way.

     Jan's forward states her purpose and technique.

For more than 100 years, “Over in the Meadow” has been a joyous introduction for young children to counting, to rhyming, and to animal babies. In this version, I've tried to add another dimension by building each of the illustrations out of common everyday objects. A baby crow is created from prunes and carrots, with a button for an eye. A fly's head is a radio; its body a pine cone.

I hope children will find as much enjoyment in visually taking apart these illustrations as I had in making them.

      There is no doubt that her readers will.

     Thornhill's technique produces some amazing results. Every stanza of the poem gets its own double page spread which is encased in coloured cloud like shapes with brightly hued letters. The stanzas feature highlighted words and rebus elements. All this is imposed on impressive three-dimensional collage backgrounds that are computer generated. The playful illustrations are further enhanced by brightly coloured borders. There is so much to look at, but, instead of being overly busy, the result is a visual treat. Intriguing food items, such as broccoli, pretzels, candy, grains and fruits, join everyday objects, such as spoons, safety pins, and light bulbs (to name just a few) which are used in the most ingenious ways. Readers are invited at the end of the poem to identify the many objects used in each picture. The list of pictured recognizable items Thornhill has utilized is delightful to read, and the discovery of these objects in their altered states within the pictures is an exercise worth doing.

     The rhythmical beat of poem and its sing-song quality also makes this a perfect read-aloud.

     Counting has never been this much fun!

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is an Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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