E-I-E-I-O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm with a Little Help from a Hen



Funny story offers gentle lessons about organic farming.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers learn a bit about composting, transforming a lawn into an organic garden, and winning over your neighbors.

Positive messages

Work hard and you can get things done. You can be a leader even if you're small if you know your stuff. To succeed, hire the right person for the job. You can win people over by sharing the fruits of your labor. 

Positive role models

The Little Red Hen is an expert in organic farming and takes charge. She takes setbacks and challenges in stride and quickly comes up with solutions and heals the relations with the neighbors by offering to sell them produce. Old MacDonald is willing to take orders from the expert, work hard, and learn new things. 

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Judy Sierra's E-I-E-I-O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm with a Little Help from a Hen is an entertaining mash-up of the familiar children's song and the classic folk tale, "The Little Red Hen" -- except here the hen gets lots of help as she directs the transformation of a backyard lawn into a productive organic farm. Kids may giggle at a pile of horse dung and a worm compost restaurant that boasts "Le Pou-Pou" on the menu. But they'll also learn about urban farming and getting along with your neighbors.

What's the story?

Old MacDonald lives in a city and has a big lawn in his backyard that he's tired of having to mow all the time, so he gets a goat, but the goat only eats his hedges. Then he engages the Little Red Hen (finding her after an Internet search of "Hens in Your Area"), who, it turns out, knows everything about creating a sustainable urban garden, starting with getting a horse to make manure and worms to make the compost "sweet." She manages the planting of vegetables and calms down the neighbors who protest the noise and smells -- and ends up selling them eggs, honey, veggies, and tubers from Old MacDonald's "Homemade Farm."

Is it any good?


E-I-E-I-O: HOW OLD MACDONALD GOT HIS FARM WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM A HEN is a fun and funny story told in clever verse and bright, humorous illustrations by Matthew Myers that show the frustrated, clueless farmer being bossed around by a smart chicken in a hard hat. There's lots to look at -- and laugh at -- on each colorful spread, and kids will get a gentle lesson in organic farming, composting, and community building. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about growing vegetables. Did you know you can do it in the city? How is a city farm different from one in the country? 

  • How is this book different from the song about Old MacDonald or the classic story of the Little Red Hen?

  • Try growing vegetables or flowers from seeds in your own backyard.

Book details

Author:Judy Sierra
Illustrator:Matthew Myers
Genre:Picture Book
Topics:Horses and farm animals, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:February 25, 2014
Number of pages:48
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:4 - 8
Read alone:6 - 8
Available on:Hardback

This review of E-I-E-I-O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm with a Little Help from a Hen was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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