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Review of The McElderry Book of Mother Goose

The McElderry Book of Mother Goose: Revered and Rare Rhymes
compiled by Petra Mathers; 
illus. by the compiler
Primary, Intermediate    McElderry    96 pp.
8/12    978-0-689-85605-1    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-5314-2    $12.99

Not since Leonard Marcus’s Mother Goose’s Little Misfortunes (rev. 11/90) has there been such a delightfully idiosyncratic selection. Drawn mostly from the canonical Opies (see “Sources”), Mathers’s fifty-seven entries include many lesser-known or longer rhymes (some “sad and scary”), all nicely leavened with such familiar nonsense as “Hey Diddle Diddle.” Here are puzzles (“I Saw a Fishpond All on Fire”); tongue twisters and verbal nonsense (“The Great Panjandrum”); stories tragic (“poor babes in the wood”) and comic (a peddler sells a woman “the piece he’d purloined” from her own petticoat). Several are lyrical (“seventeen times as high as the moon”) or mysterious (“tell my mother I shall never come back”). Vocabulary is unstinted (counting down “Ten Little Penguins”: “One got in chancery”). The delicate wit of Mathers’s watercolors and the generous spaces where her characters appear enable creative interpretation — Cock Robin’s funeral is a cooperative venture amongst the birds; Hector Protector, “dressed all in green,” is green himself: he’s a frog. Dr. Fell’s disgruntled patient, a dog, has a bandaged foot and a plastic Elizabethan collar. Mathers’s expressive figures, in many moods, are effectively counterpointed by touches of dramatic, or pensive, landscape. Pair this with the Opie/Sendak I Saw Esau (rev. 9/92) for a feast of traditional rhymes.

From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Joanna Rudge Long About Joanna Rudge Long

Joanna Rudge Long is former editor of Kirkus Reviews and a frequent lecturer on children’s books.

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