cover image Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Gris Grimly. Orchard, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-338-11243-6

In contrast to the sinister characters for which he’s best known, Grimly offers a (mostly) sweet-tempered picture book. An artist’s note explains his choice of nursery rhyme: it’s his son’s favorite, and it recalls Grimly’s upbringing on a Nebraska farm. His Old MacDonald fills his overalls generously, wears a straw hat and a big grin, and dances through his fields on peg legs. His farm is a paradise of silliness and mayhem, filled with animals whose necks and legs are impossibly stretchy. His hens are stout (one is hatching something that... doesn’t seem to be a chicken), he finds his donkey chowing down in the pumpkin patch, and he gives a runt piglet to his cow to nurse. Throughout, the atmospheric lighting, skewed perspectives, and autumnal palette hint at the darker corners of Grimly’s imagination. When the sun goes down, the animals trail home behind the farmer’s jalopy of a tractor—and that’s when things take an unexpected turn (think The Winter’s Tale). Grimly taps into the almost manic energy of this nursery rhyme and distorts it just enough to make it fresh. Ages 3–5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)