Book Review: My Very First Mother Goose

My Very First Mother GooseMy Very First Mother Goose
Edited by Iona Opie; Illustrated by Rosemary Wells.
108 pp. Candlewick Press. $22.99.

To: Mother Goose
From: Sally

Dear Mother Goose,

I thought of you yesterday as I was walking to work in Jacksonville. It was, as you once put it, a

…misty moisty morning
When cloudy was the weather…

The little cloud icon on my phone sure can’t compete with your “misty moisty morning” for accuracy. But then, you’ve always had an apt comment for every occasion. Just yesterday, when starlings invaded our bird feeder, I rushed out the back door shouting menacingly,

“Away, birds, away!
Take a little and leave a little,
And do not come again…”

It sure startled the neighbors if not the starlings.

I think you might be surprised to hear that your rhymes are now valued even beyond their cleverness and beauty. These days it’s all about Mother Goose and phonemic awareness. Apparently for several hundred years you’ve been helping children learn to read by building their ability to hear and manipulate sounds.

It still works. While kids are chuckling at the absurdity of a “pig without a wig,” they’re also hearing small differences in words—how they begin, how they end—and discovering why it’s fun to play with language.

I don’t know if your publishers still keep in touch with you about new Mother Goose editions, but I hope so. There are at least two versions with the classic Blanche Fisher Wright illustrations. (Do you ever see Blanche these days?) And your long-time fan Iona Opie, the British folklorist, edited one for babies and toddlers. It’s illustrated with Rosemary Wells’ cheerful watercolors. I’ve attached a picture of the cover.

You’d love what Iona tells people about your verses. She says: “I suppose my message in life is ‘Nursery rhymes are good for you.’ And the sooner you start the better. I always have one myself every morning.”

Good advice, isn’t it?

Thanks and love from all,


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