Type Book
Date 2010-09-22
Tags picture book, children's book, galley

Other Goose - Re-Nurseried and Re-Rhymed Childrens Classics

I wanted to like this, but the poetry is very weak. The poetry is changed just for the sake of change--the new versions aren't always clever, either intrinsically or as parodies on the originals. The 're-rhyming' seems to have spoiled some perfectly good rhymes and left poorly rhymed poems with no rhythm to speak of. For example:

Why sing a song of sixpence?
That money doesn't make sense.
And who puts blackbirds in a pie?
I really have to wonder why.

Compared to the original:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

In the original, the meter of the third line echoes the first, and the longest line is six syllables. In the 'improved' version, there's no such symmetry, there are up to eight syllables per line, and it's just generally harder to read. I focus on the number of syllables per line because a good part of the charm of the originals is in the short, forceful lines of each poem. As Hannibal Lecter reminds us:

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

This should be read intensely. Strictly speaking, the lines are a bit longer, but the pause in the middle means that they may each be read in two shorter segments.

Many of the poems in Other Goose do indeed have shorter lines, but they generally still don't read well. Consider:

Baa baa black sheep,
have you any wool?
"Hmmm, let me see,"
he said after a lull.

The latter two lines flow very poorly, and I want to stress the second syllable in 'after' if I pause where the line breaks indicate, which isn't nice at all. It sounds a bit better if I read it "Hmmm, let me see, he said/after a lull.", but I shouldn't have to go over every nursery rhyme, carefully deciding where to pause and how to stress the words so they come out smoothly; nursery rhymes, as this very book indicates, should be memorable--this is not made easier by the poems being hard to read aloud.

Apart from all this criticism, I did like the art, generally. The sequence for "Jack B. Nimble" was fun, and everything was colorful and interesting, if not a little odd.

I'd love to see this artwork with better poems, and I do think there's some room for reworking nursery rhymes into something more modern. But I don't think that Other Goose succeeds at doing this.

Name Role
J. Otto Seibold Author / Illustrator