Book Review: Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora

Book Review: Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora

Tonight I'm sharing a new book from one of the authors that first made me want to blog about multicultural kids' books. When we began our process to adopt a boy from Ethiopia, Rachel Isadora was one of the artists whose work I found especially inspiring and really wanted to add to our collection. I've blogged about a number of Isadora's titles thus far, and there are many more to come. One of our absolute favorites is her version of The Night Before Christmas, which has become a tradition in the Kinser household for the way it marries African sensibilities with the familiar Christmas poem.

Sprout was super excited to see tonight's pick by Isadora, Old Mikamba Had a Farm. The detail he seized on right away was the houses that Isadora has on the front cover, which echo the style of his Ethiopian family's home. We talked a bit before we read the book, because I wanted to explain the back story - Old Mikamba is, as you might expect, a riff on Old McDonald, but instead of domesticated animals, he's a keeper on a game farm in Africa. (Pet peeve: I really wish we could have a specific country identified, rather than the all-encompassing but so generic "Africa".)

So, rather than cows, sheep and chickens, Old Mikamba has zebras, baboons and elephants. Isadora keeps with the format of the song ("E-I-E-I-O" and all), so kids will have fun singing along and inserting the names of different animals along with their characteristic sounds. Sprout liked the baboon best, with his "ooh-ha-ha" noise -- it's tons of fun to get into this! I also love that we have some diversity with the animals here, including less familiar critters like springbok, dassies and warthogs. A nice author's note at the end offers some explanation of the stars of each verse.

And as you might expect with Isadora, the illustrations are fantastic. She blends drawings with collage, and I love the mixed media she uses for each piece. The elephants are our favorite, with their collaged newspaper skin - so adorable! And around each page are lovely borders with scenes from the East African countryside. The gorgeous orbs of orangey sunset are especially nice, and definitely add to the feel that we are close to the land with this one (a close second are the leaping springboks, which pay homage to Isadora's connection with ballet).

If you're looking to refresh your collection of classics at home or in the classroom. Old Mikamba Had a Farm is a terrific choice. It's familiar enough for kids to identify with, but broadens everyone's world nicely. And that, dear reader, is the sign of great kidlit!

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora, published by Penguin Young Readers

Mary Kinser is a librarian and lifelong children's book addict. She is also the proud mama of a little boy whose bookshelf will probably always be too full. She began her blog, Sprout's Bookshelf, out of the continual efforts to surround her son with books that support him, as part of a transracial family formed through international adoption. RainbowKids is beyond thrilled to have Mary share her expert knowledge and passion of children's books with our RK family so we can all feed into our bulging bookshelf of top notch children's books passion!

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