Mother Goose

Mother Goose rhymes were not always intended primarily for children. No one knows who the old woman with the unfortunate moniker was (or wasn't), but we do know the doggerel verse attributed to her surfaced sometime in the 17th century in England and France, and that the early versions were meant specifically to criticize or mock public figures.

Our versions are much more tame, yet they retain enough bite to stun even cynical modern readers, even children addicted to the overly-violent swill that passes for cartoons these days. Old men being thrown downstairs by the leg for shady bedroom infractions? A ladybug losing all her progeny to a ghastly fire? It's not exactly Disney, and it's not exactly the gentle fare we've come to associate with children's poetry.

Maybe we're making Mother Goose nursery rhymes sound worse than they actually are. At the same time, there's nothing wrong with kids' books being more edgy than Spot the Dog or Dick and Jane. The world isn't the quiet, calm place of 1950s suburban fantasy, and it's a bit of a disservice to present it as such to our children. Not that we need to terrify or horrify them, but just a small dose of pizzazz shouldn't be altogether abandoned.

These rhymes and short poems come in perfect measure. Some are merely lighthearted, others quite dark, some simply nonsense. While there are whole books showing the historical origins of the Mother Goose canon, you don't need that (often arcane) knowledge to enjoy them. And while few would try to defend any of them as high art, the older nursery rhymes do evidence a remarkably astute attention to meter and rhythm on the part of their composers.

The artwork for such books is often quite compelling as well, featuring colorful illustrations that present a somewhat shocking humorous mirror of the world as we know it. This is perhaps what nursery rhymes are best suited for, after all—showing us how things would be if chaos ruled, and making us very thankful it does not.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.


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12 Items found Print
Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose
by Arnold Lobel
from Random House
for Preschool-3rd grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
$12.00 (2 in stock)
Complete Mother Goose
by Ethel F. Betts
1st edition from Dilithium Press, Ltd.
for Nursery-Kindergarten
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill
by Virginia Kroll & Katherine Roundtree
from Charlesbridge
for 1st-3rd grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
Marguerite de Angeli's Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes
by Marguerite de Angeli
from Doubleday & Company
for Nursery-2nd grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
$12.00 (1 in stock)
Mother Goose
by Michael Hague
Reissue from Henry Holt and Company
for Preschool-2nd grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
$10.00 (2 in stock)
Mother Goose - The Original Volland Edition
by Eulalie Osgood Grover, Frederick Richardson (illustrator)
from Derrydale Books
for Preschool-Kindergarten
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Mother Goose Book
by Martin and Alice Provensen
from Random House
for Preschool-3rd grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Nursery Rhyme Comics
First Edition from First Second
for 1st-4th grade
in Comic Books & Graphic Novels (Location: T)
$10.00 (1 in stock)
Real Mother Goose
by Blanche Fisher Wright, illustrator
from Scholastic Inc.
Rhyming Books for Preschool-Kindergarten
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
Richard Scarry's Best Mother Goose Ever
by Richard Scarry
50th Anniversary Edition from Golden Books
for Nursery-2nd grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)
Tommie's Little Mother Goose
by Tomie DePaola
from G.P. Putnam's Sons
for Nursery
in Board Books (Location: PIC-BOARD)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Treasury of Mother Goose
by Hilda Offfen (Illustrator)
from Simon and Schuster
for Preschool- 3rd Grade
in Mother Goose (Location: PIC-MG)