The Real Dada Mother Goose

The Real Dada Mother Goose
Jon Scieszka and Julia Rothman
Walker Books

I wonder who had more fun, Jon Scieszka, guided by Dadaism turning half a dozen nursery rhymes inside, outside upside down, or this reviewer reading the outcome. It is dedicated to Blanche Fisher Wright, who in 1919 illustrated the The Real Mother Goose and whose art is reproduced throughout the pages here. The whole book is just so clever, playfully subversive and absurd. 

Scieszka and illustrator Julia Rothman transform each nursery rhyme starting with Humpty Dumpty, into six new versions. These renditions are a censored form where key words are covered over, a verbose version, a boring version wherein the King’s horses and men ‘Didn’t really have to do anything.’ Then come a postcard from Humpty to his parents, a version using morse code and finally a version translated into a series of five foreign languages.

Jack be Nimble is given in three coded forms; in Esperanto, there are multiple choice options, presentations as a grammatical exercise, one is given the Spoonerism treatment and a classroom book report.

I love the Jabberwocky version of Old Mother Hubbard 

and in two variations, Old Mother Hubbard has morphed into ‘Old Mother Luvven’ who went to the oven ‘To get her poor iguana some crickets and mealworms.’ and ‘Young Dr Fabratory’ who went to the laboratory, ‘To refit her latest robot with a new, faster and larger memory.’ The two are left pondering however on account of the disappearance of the laboratory. Brilliant mucking about this.

Hey Diddle Diddle becomes a news article in The Daily Goose, a recipe for stew, 

a map of Diddle Town, a knock knock joke, the topic for a quiz and this splendid haiku ‘Hey diddle diddle, / Cat fiddles, Cow moons, Dog laughs / “Run!” says Dish to Spoon.’

And so it goes on finally coming full circle – kind of.

Throughout Julia Rothman has fun cleverly manipulating Wright’s original illustrations and there’s a wealth of backmatter that will please older children and adults be they teachers, parents or interested others. Dadaist delight this.

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