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When I First Came to This Land
School Library Journal
Even with its catchy language and colorful illustrations, this popular folk song falls flat as a picture book. The author indicates, in very small print above the CIP data, that this song was brought to Pennsylvania by a German immigrant over a century ago, but offers no real information about this well-known tune. The endpapers feature a hand-drawn map of the United States in 1885. Taback's cartoon illustrations depict a scruffy man who is rather inept on his new farm with his cow, horse, pig, etc.; he is suddenly shown to be successful after the appearance of a wife and baby. The real problem with this book is how to use it. The song could be sung in preschool story hours or a resourceful teacher could use it as a jumping off place for a unit on U.S. Westward expansion, but without additional information on the song or simple sheet music, there's not much to it. Picture book versions of songs such as "Over in the Meadow" or "Wheels on the Bus" beg to be used in a story hour. This one just does not hold that same appeal.
Review by Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City
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Publishers Weekly
Taback and Ziefert interpret a classic American folk song. The cumulative verse tells of a man who arrives in America with next to nothing and cheerfully makes the most of adverse conditions: "I called my cow/ No-milk-now!/ I called my shack/ Break-my-back!/ I called my horse/ I'm-the-boss!" Lest anyone take the narrator's complaints seriously, Taback's boldly colored and zestily skewed illustrations deliver the comedy, as when the narrator's newly introduced spotted pig ("Too-darn-big!") stands on its hind legs, hugs its owner and seems poised to deliver a sloppy lick on the face. The artist handily acknowledges the historic aspects of the verse as well. Cleverly exaggerated folk-like paintings subtly incorporate foreign objects; for example, in the opening scene, which shows the narrator making his landing on U.S. soil, the bottom of the picture is strewn with canceled stamps, snippets of ticket stubs and a tiny newspaper facsimile trumpeting "Immigrants Arrive!" Readers are treated to playful perspectives as the horizon curves crazily or as the interior of the shack lists at impossible angles. All that's missing is the music; happily, the art has rhythm aplenty.
Childrens Literature
Through lively and cumulative verse Ziefert celebrates the pioneering spirit and sense of adventure of those who came to this country and made a new life for themselves. The text is based on a century-old folk poem brought to America by a German immigrant. The joys and trials of these early immigrants, as depicted in the words, are beautifully replicated in the vivid, colorful and authentic illustrations appropriate to the time period. The cumulative nature of the verse and the bold illustrations will invite participation in a read aloud making this a wonderful addition to any bookshelf.
Simms brings to life the immigrant experience...
Kirkus Reviews
In a lighthearted look at the immigrant experience, Ziefert retells a cumulative 19th-century American poem that describes a cheerful man who comes to the U.S., buys a farm, sets up house, and makes a life. The verses are catchy and fun: With each page, the farmer explains what he has taken on, and what he names it. "I called my horse/I'm-the-boss!/I called my plow/Don't- know-how!/And I called my farm/Muscle-in-my-arm!" Shack, cow, wife, and son also show up, with the son taking over the last verse by naming his duck, mother, and father. Taback's bold, bright illustrations portray the charming farmer in a series of mishaps that add fun and meaning to the verse. Antique ads, photos, ticket stubs, newspaper clipping, and stamps pasted into the art augment the period of history in a grand story about a brave generation who won't soon be forgotten.

The new land holds a world full of promise for a young man who comes to it with a strong back, a loving heart and a sense of humor. Simms’ joyful art celebrates the spirit of those who came to this country and boldly made a brand-new life for themselves and future generations.

— from the Publisher

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