BOOKS: Mother Goose for the 21st century


By Judy Belanger

I was often amazed during my years as a school teacher when I found children who were not familiar with nursery rhymes. For that reason, I challenged myself to come up with creative ways of applying them in my lessons for kids of all ages. This was especially fun with the older children when I would ask them to do math with the numbers from various rhymes such as how many black birds were baked in a pie, added to the number of fiddlers for Nat King Cole, divided by the time Wee Willie Winkie went through the town. I would put Mother Goose books on the tables and ask them to make up similar problems for their classmates. It is unfortunate there are children who miss the fun of the Mother Goose rhymes. The following books are keeping the tradition alive.

HICKORY, DICKORY, DOCK & OTHER MOTHER GOOSE RHYMES, by James Marshall, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $5.95; ages 1-4.

I am glad to see that many more popular children’s books are becoming available in the board book format for the younger ones to enjoy. This makes the books the right size for small hands to hold and durable enough to withstand numerous reads. Marshall’s book includes eight nursery rhymes. Among his comical sketches you will find Little Boy Blue, a haystack obscuring all but his two tiny feet, and Old King Cole’s fiddlers depicted as geese. What a fun way to introduce children to Marshall—not to mention timeless tales by old Mother Goose.

HEY DIDDLE RIDDLE: A SILLY NURSERY RHYME FLAP BOOK, by Wendi Silvano, pictures by Tad Hills, Simon & Schuster, $7.99; ages 4-8.

Double the praise for a book that is as entertaining as it is informative. Silvano’s latest does just that. She selects 10 riddles, the answers to which are revealed only when the reader lifts a flap. Sometimes the answer to one riddle will allude to another rhyme, such as Jill calling “Hickory Dickory Dock” when Jack fell down the hill. To fully appreciate this book, children should have a basic background of nursery rhymes and be able to understand the concept of riddles.

NURSERY RHYMES: WELL-LOVED VERSES TO SHARE, by Beth Harwood, illustrations by Susie Lacome, Silver Dolphin, $12.95; ages 3 and up.

Depicting 28 traditional nursery rhymes, Harwood brings to life lovable favorites such as “Hey Diddle Diddle” and “Little Miss Muffet.” I especially like the way Lacome illustrates selections with patchwork appliqué designs. The book is done in full-size format with sturdy board pages. The embossed pages let little hands feel the characters they read about.

MOTHER GOOSE, by Will Moses, Philomel Books, $17.99; ages 3-8.

In the introduction Moses says he fondly remembers being read nursery rhymes. In this book he hopes to re-create that feeling for children through his artwork. Children can search for characters and objects from a total of 70 nursery rhymes in the 12 illustrations. Moses’ pictures, capturing the charm of the countryside, mimic folk art. In the back of the book the editors include a brief history of Mother Goose. There is also a helpful index of first lines.

MAMA GOOSE: RHYMES AND POEMS FOR THE LITTLE ONES, a collection by Edelen Wille, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $24.95; ages 3-6.

Take 102 rhymes, vintage fabrics and a collection of old pictures, put them all together and what do you get? MaMa Goose! With the popularity of computerized graphics, I hope children and adults can appreciate the details in putting this book together. While, over the years, some rhymes have become far more popular than others, this book contains the all-time favorites as well as some lesser-known titles. By pooling several artists together to illustrate the rhymes, Wille brings new life to the classics. An index of first lines is included, as well as a list of the artists’ names.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD MOTHER GOOSE, by Nina Crews, Greenwillow, $15.99; ages 3 and up.

Photographs depicting children playing Ring Around the Rosie, running with a bucket to fetch a pail of water or following a goose through town are just some of the pictures readers will recognize in this depiction of 41 nursery rhymes. Crews is a talented photographer and she uses picture collages she shot in Brooklyn neighborhoods to illustrate the rhymes. Children will identify many of the rhymes as soon as they see the pictures and enjoy learning a few new ones. Crews’ name might sound familiar, being the daughter of Donald Crews and Ann Jonas, who are both very accomplished author/illustrators, or from other books she has written.

BEATRIX POTTER NURSERY RHYME BOOK, by Beatrix Potter, F. Warne & Co., Penguin Group (USA), $14.99; ages 3 and up.

When children ask, “Where are the little books?” they are referring to the series of books by Beatrix Potter, which includes Peter Rabbit. This handsomely designed compilation of every nursery rhyme, poem and riddle from her classic books features original artwork by the author. The collection is now available with a CD featuring original songs for all the 54 nursery rhymes. The CD, produced by the prestigious Silver Lining Productions, provides nearly 1½ hours of music youngsters will surely enjoy.



Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.



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