Take your partner by the hand!
The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell,
Heigh-ho, the merry-o, the farmer in the dell.
A worn-hat, scarf-wearing, banjo-playing dog sets the beat for ‘The Farmer in the Dell’ and one by one from farmer to cheese, the dance begins. The farmer arrives on his tractor and starts the dancing, which expands to include, wife, child, nurse, cow and other animals. Finally the mouse takes the cheese, before the banjo-playing dog finishes up with a bow. The text wanders about the page with the dancers with the chorus words hightlighted. Illustrations show each of the participants joining in, with facial expressions suggesting that there are some pairings that could be a little troublesome. Full colour pastel pages allow the action to happen in the ‘spotlight’ with backgrounds just hinted at. The Topp Twins CD includes an extended version of the song/story. A music score is on the final page.
The Farmer in the Dell is part of a series from Scholastic featuring well-known stories, songs and rhymes and which include CDs. They are wild and exuberant and a great way to introduce old favourites to a new audience. In a classroom, they offer an opportunity to connect picture books to song and movement. In fact, it’s almost impossible to sit still while reading. The illustrations depict a farming family. The ‘nurse’, who in the original singings of the song was probably a nanny, is now in a white uniform with a stethoscope and dressing scissors. Great fun for pre- and early-schoolers. Get your dancing shoes on.
The Farmer in the Dell, sung The Topp Twins ill Jenny Cooper Scholastic 2014 ISBN: 9781775431954
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller