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Little Jack Horner Live from the Corner

by Helaine Becker; Mike Boldt,illus.

Jack Horner ventures into the limelight when he enters a talent show. The aspiring musician exudes a retro hipster vibe with his frilly collar and cuffs, knickers, and horn-rimmed glasses. Jack’s song choice, however, proves to be problematic. As soon as he croons, “Old MacDonald had a farm and Bingo was his name-o,” Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (a heckler in the crowd) points out the error in his verse. With an apologetic aside to the audience, Jack continues his performance, only to be interrupted when he comes to a lyric about MacDonald’s sheep. Mary pipes up again, explaining there are no sheep on the farm since Little Bo Peep lost them all.     

More assiduous corrections follow as Mary interjects with the whereabouts of each animal mentioned by Jack. In exasperation, he finally asks if there are any animals left on the farm. In pleasing circular fashion, the answer is a dog named Bingo. 

Toronto author Helaine Becker’s text sparkles with up-tempo wit and irreverence. Playful nods to the original rhymes abound (Jack wishes he’d “just stayed home in his nice comfy corner”) as does droll humour (Humpty Dumpty, the master of ceremonies, eggs on the crowd). There is much delight to be found in the surprise twists, and the snappy dialogue and clever turns of phrase make this book particularly well-suited to reading aloud.

Mike Boldt’s detailed oil illustrations also offer plenty of laughs, from Jack’s banjo-wielding rocker poses to a garden gnome watering Mary’s flowers. Readers will enjoy spotting the activities of audience members, such as the Gingerbread Man tucking into a big box of popcorn and one of the Three Little Pigs casting nervous sideways glances at the Big Bad Wolf.

This funny riff on familiar characters and songs hits all the right notes.