Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods

By Mary Quattlebaum; illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

(Dawn Publications 2013;     ages 1-4)

Dawn Publications has been “Connecting Children and Nature since 1979” and the Jo MacDonald series of picture books definitely fits that mission. Far fewer children grow up roaming the woods and fields freely like award-winning author Mary Quattlebaum  (and me). All three picture books use inventive text and bounce to the familiar tune of Old MacDonald had a farm.

Like many of us who grew up before electronic playthings, the author places tremendous value in early years spent out in the natural world, often with little adult supervision. The majority of today’s kids don’t have that freedom or easy access to nature. In fact we might even apply the term “nature deficit disorder” to far too many of them.


Another author, Richard Louv, shares fascinating research in his book for adults titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Kids from Nature Deficit Disorder. Problems in both physical and emotional health have been linked to a lack of direct exposure to nature. Grandparents can actually play an important role in rectifying that by introducing kids to ways in which they enjoyed the outdoors growing up.



In the delightful picture book titled Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods, a young girl named Jo hikes with her fit and active grandfather. They encounter all manner of wildlife including a snake, skunk, moth and owl. The sense of adventure will captivate kids. The camaraderie and affection between the intergenerational duo shines in the lovely watercolor illustrations by Laura J. Bryant.


Four pages of back matter share terrific information on the plants and animals of a forest community. There are also related and fun indoor activities. (scroll down on that page.)



There are two other picture books in this fun and informative series—

Jo MacDonald had a Garden and Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond. Both also portray young Jo exploring nature and she has the help of a young boy with the garden. The pond is a farm pond filled with noisy and interesting critters.

These books include extensive information on garden and pond communities that is sure to prompt kids to look more closely at their environment. Terrific resources and indoor activities are included. I found it exciting to find the author took it to the next level for children with how to be a naturalist and a citizen-scientist.

Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods is a lovely picture book depicting positive aspects of aging. The other two in the series show far less of Grandpa MacDonald unfortunately, but the illustrations are very engaging with an active child and equally active creatures. I highly recommend all three books as ideal for inspiring kids to notice, enjoy and protect their natural surroundings. (They are also available as board books for younger kids.)

Many thanks to author Mary Quattlebaum for the review copies. Images other than the covers are my own photographs.

Consider checking out these picture books with a nature theme:

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa (are you also a long distance grandparent?)

Honey Bee Man

Miss Rumphius


Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs  (I adore this book!!)


  Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Northwoods Girl    

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps

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