OVER IN THE MEADOW by Olive A. Wadsworth and Ezra Jack Keats

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Over in the Meadow is an old Appalachian counting rhyme that’s popular with young children.




There are many versions of this counting rhyme available for purchase. In some versions, a CD of the simple melody is included or alternatively, the sheet music is printed in the end pages. But even if you’re not much of a singer, this counting rhyme is a surefire pleaser. The predictable structure, the pleasing rhythm and rhyme, and the repetition of lines make this a great book for chiming in on. It has been formatted as a big book by Candlewick Press since those same qualities make it an excellent book to use for exploring basic concepts about print. Here’s a sample:

Over in the meadow, in the sand and the sun,
Lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one.
“Dig,” said the mother.
“I dig,” said the one.
So he dug all day
in the sand in the sun.


Over in the meadow, where the stream runs blue,
Lived an old mother fish and her little fishes two…

My favorite version of those currently in print uses the late 19th century text by Olive A. Wadsworth and illustrations by Ezra Jack Keats. I will admit that this is the copy I used when I first began teaching, so my opinion is probably tinged by nostalgia. But to be objective about it, the graphic simplicity makes Keats’ collage pictures easy to interpret. And the text of each stanza is laid out over a two-page spread, so the words are also uncluttered and easy to discern. In other versions, the whole verse is on one page, making individual words stand out less. There’s a copy by Michael Evans which incorporates the gimmick of holes to intrigue the toddler. That works fine if you get the board book not the paperback, but numbers 8, 9, and 10 are all crammed on one page. With each new verse in Evans’ book, the animals accumulate in the meadow, adding an unwieldy visual challenge to a youngster. An out-of-print version by Paul Galdone highlights the number words and the associated numerals in a sensible manner. But you’d have to go to a used book source for that copy.