Pick me up and pour me out;Children's poetry;Books

1st October 1999 at 01:00
HERE COMES MOTHER GOOSE. Edited by Iona Opie. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Walker pound;14.99. Rosemary Wells's illustration for "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" features a gorgeous bunny, completely covered in purple juice, wearing fetching dungarees with only one strap done up and a hat which his ears poke through, flinging yet another mulberry into his open mouth. It makes the reader laugh out loud and, in my case at least, gasp for joy.

Here Comes Mother Goose is a delightful book, another triumph for the partnership between lona Opie, Rosemary Wells and Walker Books and every bit as good as its predecessor, My Very First Mother Goose, this time with some content that will appeal to older children.

Once again appealing characters, not unlike some of those in Rosemary Wells's picture books (including the Bunny Planet series and the brilliant Noisy Nora books, published by Doubleday, people the colourful, large-format pages of the book, accompanied by cheerful rhymes from the oral tradition on both sides of the Atlantic ("My Ma's A Millionaire" is opposite "Oranges and Lemons say the Bells of St Clement's"). But don't think this is just a book for adults who want fond memories of nursery days. The most important recommendations come from both pre-school children and those in early-years classrooms. It is the perfect book to share with a small child, as Wells provides so many humorous touches and fascinating details for young readers to savour.

Readers who have just become independent are supported by the rhymes and repetitions, as well as the attractive, clear, large type. Teachers and scholars can celebrate the robust lasting quality of nursery rhymes, some of which are influenced by playground traditions, and admire the continuities between Wells's innovative artistry and Mother Goose illustrators of the past, such as Randolph Caldecotte and Walter Crane. From the tiny vignettes (for example, illustrating "A Man of Double Deed" and "My Mother Said I Never Should") to the embellished capitals and the sparkling pattern of checks that run through both the Walker volumes, from the wide cultural references to the sheer exuberance of the artwork, this is a book for everyone between two and 92.

Morag Styles is reader in children's literature at Homerton College, Cambridge

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