Mary Quattlebaum


Jo MacDonald Had a Garden

The Story

Jo MacDonald, the granddaughter of the old gent in the popular children’s song, introduces kids to garden creatures and their needs.  She invites young readers to wiggle like an earthworm, flutter like a bird, and sing E-I-E-I-O as she helps her grandfather (modeled after the author’s nature-loving dad).  You’ll find bumblebees, toads, and butterflies—and a few surprises and garden treats—as well as the rhythms and wordplay so delightful to little ones.  A resource section includes descriptions of each animal and activities, with additional downloadable activities at nature publisher Dawn’s website  And look for the cardinal hidden in each lively watercolor illustration!

Singing and Writing Games

  1. 1.In a group or classroom situation, read the book/sing the song with children doing the dig, wiggle, pat and other movements.  What a wild dance!  Explain that they have created a garden that helps people (provides food) and benefits wild creatures (provides food, shelter, and places to lay eggs).  Guide children to find the plants and creatures that are not part of the song but are included in the illustrations (and further described in the book’s back matter).

  1. 2.Even small changes can help wildlife in big ways.  Plant a few native plants such as coneflowers in your garden, in a patch close to school or home, or in outdoor containers.  Visit regularly and record your observations of bugs, birds, and other wild visitors to your plants.  Are you surprised by how many you see?

Awards and Reviews

Reading Rockets, Spring List

“A popular spring and garden story time choice.”—Kirkus

“Quattlebaum breathes new life into a familiar song with words that will inspire little gardeners everywhere—whether they have a sprawling backyard or a small city balcony.

—Anne Keisman, Editor, National Wildlife Federation’s “Be Out There” campaign

“A happy, colorful, informative way to introduce kids to homegrown nutrition and stewardship.”

—William Moss, “Get Out and Grow” Master Gardener, National Gardening Association

“This wonderful book will open a window for kids into the magical and important world of plants.”

—Susan Rieff, Executive Director, Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center