Title: Original Mother Goose, The Real Mother Goose (two versions of the same basic book)
Author: Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright
File Under: Nursery Rhymes, Read-Aloud, Education, Collective Memory
Age Group: Tiny tots — even babes in arms — on up.
Dear Kristen, loyal reader, reminded me to bring the Library Project back around to books for little kids.
As you know, this project of mine is not designed to give you a post with every suggestion for a book in the category I’m thinking of. Personally, I get an anxiety attack from posts that try to round up all the things. Especially when it comes to books! Because first, there are many good books and usually, when you name a few, it leads you naturally to the others; and second, trying to be comprehensive in a post often leads to including less than stellar examples.
Here in this space I try never ever to recommend a book that isn’t absolutely worth purchasing and treasuring forever. We are building a library! Not everything can or should go in the library. Sometimes you and I might disagree on a certain book, but at least you know that I love it and give it five stars (or someone very close to me does), and that I don’t give five stars to any old random book. It will take me a long time to recommend even half the books I love, but you can be assured I won’t scrounge up any that are actually just not that great, just to make a long list.
My idea here is to take it slowly. I’d rather discuss one or two books to try to give you a flavor for why I think them worthy, trusting that you will find others, than inundate you with a barrage of titles*. As always, we love to see what gets sparked in the comments, so do chime in!
Kristin’s email was an opportunity to ponder the value of nursery rhymes in the development of language. Not long ago, I had reminded Deirdre to search out a volume for her little girl, who is learning to talk. She did, and their current favorite is listed below.
Then I was reading nursery rhymes to Molly (the same age as Finnabee) out in Oklahoma, and of course Pippo (who is 4) was drawn to listen and look at the illustrations (we were reading the Fujikawa version) along with us.
I worry that with the loss of the collective memory, people reduce learning to its seeming bare bones, thinking that this will suffice. And as adults always crave what is new, we forget that to children, everything is new! What is old to us is new to them! The advantage of the old things is precisely that they have stood the test of time. We’re very foolish to think we should — or can — move on.
Nursery rhymes offer repetition in the context of whimsy and delight. They hone in on the experiences that are familiar and universal (a cross mother, a careless boy, a bad habit like getting up too late, the sun, the moon), making sense of nonsense but also enjoying nonsense.
The sheer fun of language gives rise to wonder at the fanciful world we would like to understand but so seldom can — at least not when we’re two — but often also not when we’re 82. Thus, a great-grandmother can enjoy reading a nursery rhyme to a toddler, which is not something you can say of many so-called educational materials we normally find these days, which are as dreary as they are condescending. (And don’t get me started on political correctness.)
And Mother Goose rhymes aren’t uniform. Some are long, some are short. A grateful fact when bedtime is late — as well as when you find you do have time to linger with your arm around your little one.
For language practice, you can’t beat these rhymes and songs. That little one who can hardly do more than babble learns to wrap his tongue around tricky syllables. Interestingly, our forebears expected the youngest among us to encounter words like dainty, pride and folly, tuffet, melancholy, smithereens, tutor, and so on. Later, when the same child meets the same words in Shakespeare and the Bible, he won’t be defeated, will he?
The child also learns to count — and to be patient. Many a time I coaxed a recalcitrant toddler of my very own up a vexing flight of stairs by chanting One, Two, Buckle my SHOE!
The older child listens in and suddenly gets certain things he never noticed before (as for that matter does the adult reading!).
This is culture and how you get it. Read the old things!
Some other collections we like:
Richard Scarry’s Best Mother Goose Ever (Giant Little Golden Book) Richard Scarry always satisfies.
Mother Goose illustrated by Gyo Fujikama (the “look inside” feature on Amazon links to the wrong book, by the way). I love her style.
A Child’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes Kady MacDonald Denton — This is the collection and illustrator that Deirdre and Finnabee have been enjoying. It has the added interest of including rhymes from other traditions.
*There are a few great book lists, and I’ve linked to those in the original post, found here: