All About Cats / Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes

All About Cats
Frantz Wittkamp (trans. David Henry Wilson), illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Macmillan Children’s Books

As an ailurophobe I wasn’t predisposed to like this book, but on the other hand I’m a poetry lover and Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are terrific fun so the positives have it. And David Henry Wilson’s translations from the original German work well too and rhyme well. Do I detect a touch of the Eleanor Farjeons in Cats are … Sleepy?

From the fourteen four-line poems herein we discover a fair bit about cats, their habits and their predilections. They enjoy reading, arithmetic – yes really, painting, making mischief, playing toss with a ball or perhaps a small rodent if they can get their paws on one; and when it comes to food, each one has a favourite – it’s not always fish.
Parent cats show love towards their offspring, working together to keep things sweet between mums and dads. However I definitely disapprove of certain tomcats – those that net butterflies and keep them as pets, whereas the bath routine at the end of the day gets an endorsement from this reviewer, and how wonderfully economical with water they are in Axel’s illustration at least (3 in a tub together.)
But no matter if said moggies are making music or celebrating a birthday with rhubarb juice and fishcakes, or even feeling a tad grumpy if caught in a rain shower, they make the best of the situation, as is evident in Axel’s splendidly droll scenes and tiny vignettes.

To foster a love of language in young children, cat lovers or not, share the rhymes and playful pictures with them: perhaps some of them can come up with own cat capers too.

Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes
Axel Scheffler
Macmillan Children’s Books

This treasury of almost sixty nursery rhymes is linked by eighteen short stories written by Alison Green, the first of which sets the scene by introducing Mother Goose herself. She lays three eggs and it’s to her goslings the rhymes were told and then eventually written down by a wise old heron. (I love that.) It’s also her’s and her goslings’ activities that are related in the stories.

You’ll find lots of your favourites here: I Had a Little Nut Tree,

Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, The Grand Old Duke of York, Polly (who puts the kettle on), Old King Cole, Humpty Dumpty, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Hey Diddle Diddle

and lastly some bedtime ones including Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Wee Willie Winkie, still dashing round town in that nightgown.

Every rhyme and story is humorously illustrated in such a way by Axel Scheffler that the wit behind the words is evident. A super present to give a new baby and a book to acquaint preschool children with the richness of nursery rhyme language that sadly, many of them are unfamiliar with.

Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending both titles for review.

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