|Image: Candlewick Press|
Kablam! That's the sound of all the possible opening lines of this post colliding. So here's a stream of consciousness: At first, I thought this was a straight-up biography of Mother Goose. It's not. But there are many biographical facts wrapped in playful verse. Two, all Mother Goose rhymes are nursery rhymes but not all nursery rhymes are Mother Goose. Or are they? Is there a French Mother Goose? A British one? Three, thanks to my conference friend Linda, I had already knew that Mother Goose was buried in Boston. We visited her grave when we attended ALA Midwinter together in January of 2010. I thought I had a photo, but cannot find one. Google it and you will find plenty.
Upon opening the book to the front end-pages, I did a double-take because I thought the someone had drawn and written in the book! "Impossible," I thought. Not only is there a figure scribbled in to appear to be smelling the painted flowers, but there is writing near the top.
Turns out, it is the dedications! The delight continues with the page turn where the reader is asked, "Who is Mother Goose?" Turns out, there was an Elizabeth Foster who married an old widower named Isaac Goose in 1692 in Boston. She was step-mother to his ten children and they went on to have four of their own. Certainly, I wouldn't know what to do with so many children. However, the nursery rhyme about the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe is not attributed to Mother Goose.
There is a story in rhyme set in red type near the top of the verso pages that tells Elizabeth's and Jacob's story. This is juxtaposed with nursery rhymes that might have reflected what might've been their chaotic life. Humorous spot art fills in the rest of the page space.
I love this curious book but will admit to wondering who the audience is? I despair sometimes when I realize that many of my students seem to be unaware of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Last year, I read a biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to my sixth graders and there was a reference to "sugar and spice and everything nice" in the back matter. I asked my students what the rest of the rhyme was and they had a hard time coming up with it. Such a sad moment for me. Certainly, a dedicated primary school teacher might build a unit around it. Kudos, if they have the time with all the pressure to move kids along quickly.
I was sad to find there was no back matter to offer context.
Still, I was entertained and intrigued; especially by the rear end pages. I noted the space and flipped the back flap to find a final delightful joke which will be lost in any library copy as the flaps are taped down.