• Happy birthday T. Ernesto Bethancourt (The Dog Days of Arthur Cane) and Jeanne Betancourt (My Name is Brain Brian; Pony Pal series).
  • It’s the birth date of Dirk Zimmer (1943-2008), In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories.
  • In 1950, the first Peanuts comic strip runs in nine newspapers. Read How to Draw Peanuts by Charles Schultz, and Peanuts: The Art of Charles Schultz.
  • Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as first African-American Supreme Court justice on this day in 1967. Read A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla.
  • It’s Name Your Car Day. Read The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Kathryn Brown.
  • It’s Phileas Fogg’s Wager Day. Read Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

Since the eighties the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi has been honored with World Farm Animals Day. If I were to pick a single book that celebrates living farm animals, it would have to be On the Farm, an inspired collaboration between poet David Elliott and illustrator Holly Meade.

David once actually worked on a farm—although he claims that he had little aptitude and actually made the animals a bit nervous. He became a writer and poet, instead, and is known for his ability to hold audiences—of both adults and children—spellbound as he explains poetry and poetic form.

In On the Farm he takes familiar creatures and helps us look at them in new ways. In very simple and approachable verse, David presents thirteen poems about creatures who can be found on a farm—from cows and horses to snakes and rabbits. “The Sheep/began his woolly life/as gentle as a/lamb. Too bad/he turned/into a/ram. BAM!” Or “The Bees/Tell their story,/sweet and old./It begins in clover;/it ends with gold.”

Each poem has been given a generous double-page spread, which allows illustrator Holly Meade to showcase the animals but also delineate their surroundings. On the copyright page, a double-page spread of the farm with familiar animals sets the scene. Then in woodblock and watercolor prints with bold outlines each animal struts, or runs, or simply stands to be recognized. Artist and writer work in complete harmony in this book. When these lines appear about the pig, “Some look at her and see a sow;/I see a beauty queen,” the illustration showcases a truly lovely creature. Some pig, indeed! The exquisitely executed watercolors, the large trim size, and the heavy paper stock all make this book incredibly attractive—one of those titles you might pick up to read even if you had no interest in farm animals.

On the Farm can be used to introduce any study on farm animals or any poetry unit. The poems actually encourage young readers to see if they can craft some short pieces of their own. And this book works brilliantly as a read aloud for the very young from sixteen months on. Since it appeared in 2008, On the Farm has become one of the poetry volumes that teachers and parents most enjoy using—for providing information or pure pleasure.

Here’s a page from On the Farm:


Originally posted October 2, 2011. Updated for 2012.

Tags: Animals
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for On the Farm


  1. Bookjeannie says:

    Thanks Anita! Will be getting 2copies…one for grandson Henry & school!

  2. Anita,

    Thanks so much for the kind words about our little effort. It means more than you might think. Here’s a verse that didn’t make it into the book. The Robin/sings from her branch/but wants to roar/small cousin/of tyrannosaur.

    Keep up the fantastic and important work you do.


  3. Anita says:

    David: Wonderful to hear from you — and thanks for the unpublished verse. As you know, it is just the kind of detail I love to discover about a published book.

  4. Rachel G says:

    I’ve never read this book, but it looks wonderful! I love the illustrations and the poems sound delightful. I will definitely look for this the next time I’m at the library!

  5. Leah Labrecque says:

    I studied their book, “In the Wild,” for a class on picture book art and absolutely fell in love with the woodblock and watercolor combination. It just makes the pictures feel so alive. I’ll have to check this one out – thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Star says:

    My three-year-old discovered this book at the library a couple months ago. She loves me to read poetry to her (her favorite poet is Emily Dickinson, I kid you not) and when I told her it was a book of poetry she was thrilled! We’ve enjoyed reading it so much, and check it out, return it, check it out the following week, return it….I think she’ll be getting her own copy for Christmas!

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