Review of The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense

The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete NonsenseThe Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense
by Jon Scieszka; illus. by Julia Rothman
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    80 pp.    g
10/22    978-0-7636-9434-0    $19.99

Since the 1992 publication of The Stinky Cheese Man (rev. 11/92), Scieszka has been upending conventions in children’s literature. Here, he’s back at it, with a Dadaist interpretation of Blanche Fisher Wright’s classic The Real Mother Goose. Scieszka focuses on four Mother Goose rhymes plus “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” modifying each entry multiple times and creating absurdist variations. For example, he rewrites “Jack Be Nimble” backwards, in pig Latin, and in Esperanto; as Mad Libs–like fill-ins; as a multiple-choice quiz; and as a child’s book report. Language-play abounds, including translations into Morse code; verbal and nominal substitutions; spoonerisms; and “Jabberwocky” (“Old Mother Jabbber went to the clabber, / to get her frum jub a gove”). Encouraging youngsters to create their own riffs on literature, Scieszka includes explanations of many of these linguistic conventions. Rothman illustrates each poem by altering Wright’s original illustrations—superimposing her own mixed-media collages on some, clipping others and rearranging the parts, adding geese to populate many pages. Clever, inventive fun.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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