Old MacDonald had a dog ... or did he?
When Little Jack Horner steps out of the corner to sing a simple song, things get complicated. This hilarious take features favorite nursery rhyme characters and a little song you thought you knew.

Expect the unexpected as you discover what really happened to Old Mac's sheep, pigs, ducks, geese...and dog.

ISBN 978-1443113786 pb

A FREE downloadable script for teachers is available from the Scholastic Canada Book Fair website***


"Jack Horner ventures into the limelight when he enters a talent show. The aspiring musician exudes a retro hipster vibe with his frilly collar and cuffs, knickers, and horn-rimmed glasses. Jack’s song choice, however, proves to be problematic. As soon as he croons, “Old MacDonald had a farm and Bingo was his name-o,” Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (a heckler in the crowd) points out the error in his verse. With an apologetic aside to the audience, Jack continues his performance, only to be interrupted when he comes to a lyric about MacDonald’s sheep. Mary pipes up again, explaining there are no sheep on the farm since Little Bo Peep lost them all.     

More assiduous corrections follow as Mary interjects with the whereabouts of each animal mentioned by Jack. In exasperation, he finally asks if there are any animals left on the farm. In pleasing circular fashion, the answer is a dog named Bingo. 

Toronto author Helaine Becker’s text sparkles with up-tempo wit and irreverence. Playful nods to the original rhymes abound (Jack wishes he’d “just stayed home in his nice comfy corner”) as does droll humour (Humpty Dumpty, the master of ceremonies, eggs on the crowd). There is much delight to be found in the surprise twists, and the snappy dialogue and clever turns of phrase make this book particularly well-suited to reading aloud.

Mike Boldt’s detailed oil illustrations also offer plenty of laughs, from Jack’s banjo-wielding rocker poses to a garden gnome watering Mary’s flowers. Readers will enjoy spotting the activities of audience members, such as the Gingerbread Man tucking into a big box of popcorn and one of the Three Little Pigs casting nervous sideways glances at the Big Bad Wolf.

This funny riff on familiar characters and songs hits all the right notes."
         - Quill and Quire

"Rating: E
In Little Jack Horner Live from the Corner not only does Jack come out of the corner, he also goes on stage. If that
isn’t nerve wracking enough, when he starts to sing, he is interrupted repeatedly by Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.
Children will have no trouble understanding the concept of ‘contrary’ by the end of this funny tale!

Jack is trying to sing ‘Old MacDonald had a Farm’ but Mary interrupts to tell him what has happened to each of the
animals. For starters, Jack gets Old MacDonald, the farmer, and Bingo, the dog, mixed up! Each interruption is tied
to a nursery rhyme or fairy tale. All the animals have left the farm. Where are they? Readers will notice that many of
the farm animals are in the audience along with other nursery rhyme characters!

This jolly story is amusing. On the first page Humpty Dumpty is “…egging the crowd on.” Mary’s dialogue is hilarious. About the three little pigs she states, “Oh those three moved out. They built a few houses and had some trouble with a wolf. But they’re doing swell now. They’re living together in that little brick home.” About the Ugly Duckling she says “…she turned into a swan and headed off to Hollywood.”

Mike Boldt’s accompanying illustrations are fun too. (For the much older reader, Jack Horner looks somewhat like Buddy Holly!) The three little pigs are in the front row looking very prosperous and urbane. When the Ugly Duckling heads off to Hollywood she does so by taxi, passing a hitch hiking Puss in Boots. The Three Blind mice move around from audience to ‘grooving’ on-stage.

This book is highly recommended for both school and public libraries. With the witty dialogue and energetic
illustrations it is a great book for story time. The inclusion of many nursery rhyme characters makes it a good book for individual contemplation as well as a welcome addition to a unit on Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes.

Thematic Links: Nursery Rhymes; Fairy Tales; Humour; Old MacDonald had a Farm; Bingo the dog"

- Resource Links

"Little Jack Horner Live from the Corner is a fast-paced and enjoyable picture book featuring Jack Horner as a ‘50s-inspired rock n’ roll singer. While attempting to perform “Old MacDonald” despite a case of stage fright, Jack is constantly interrupted by know-it-all Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. All shook up, Jack tries his best to sing through the song, but Mary, Mary pipes in with her opinions and references to other nursing rhymes. For instance, when Jack sings “And on his farm he had some sheep,” Mary, Mary interjects with, “Excuse me, but that’s not right . . . . That Little Bo Peep . . . she’s such a scatterbrain! She lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them. There are no sheep on Old MacDonald’s farm. Not one.” Jack and Mary, Mary eventually achieve peace and harmony, with the once-shy Jack relieved and finally able to enjoy his performance.

     Preschoolers and those in early grades will find it fun to catch each reference to a nursery rhyme, such as Humpty Dumpty, Chicken Little, and the Three Little Pigs. The illustrations, done in oil, are colourful and bright, with an almost Pinocchio-esque style on each character’s face. Readers will want to go back and examine each page closely for subtle references.

     Little Jack Horner Live from the Corner is a fresh and wonderful attempt to modernize old nursery rhymes and is a must-have for all children’s collections."         - CM Magazine