Books by Iona Opie

Released: Sept. 1, 2007

"When the rain raineth / And the goose winketh, / Little knows the gosling / What the goose thinketh." Naming herself (with some justice) "Mother Goose's self-appointed treasurer," Opie digs deep into the coffers for 22 lesser-known nursery rhymes—"mysterious fragments," she calls them, "long-ago laughter of little meaning and echoes of ancient spells." The illustrations pick up on this air of otherworldliness; Wells's smiling human and animal figures, all in antique dress, are a bit smaller in these settings, and look less solid than in her bigger, more intimate collaborations with Opie, My Very First Mother Goose (1996) and Here Comes Mother Goose (1999). The pictures may suggest scenarios for some of the more abstract lines here, but young goslings will still benefit most not by trying to make sense of the gnomic verses, but just listening to the rhythms of sound and language in them. (Poetry. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

This oversized companion to the much ballyhooed My Very First Mother Goose (1996) will take toddlers and ex-toddlers deeper into the playscapes of the language, to meet Old King Cole, Old Mother Hubbard, and Dusty Bill From Vinegar Hill; to caper about the mulberry bush, polka with My Aunt Jane, and dance by the light of the moon. Mixing occasional humans into her furred and feathered cast, Wells creates a series of visual scenarios featuring anywhere from one big figure, often dirty or mussed, to every single cat on the road to St. Ives (over a thousand). Opie cuts longer rhymes down to two or three verses, and essays a sly bit of social commentary by switching the answers to what little girls and boys are made of. Though Wells drops the ball with this last, legitimizing the boys' presence in a kitchen by dressing them as chefs, in general the book is plainly the work of a match made in heaven, and merits as much popularity as its predecessor. (Folklore. 1-6) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

One glimpse of the merry Wells (The Language of Doves, p. 1159, etc.) characters that caper through these pages—a cast of hundreds—one flip through the pages where Opie (I Saw Esau, 1992, etc.) has arranged almost 70 familiar and not-so-familiar rhymes to an effect of unabashed glee, and readers will be in love again with the original Mother Goose. There's little point in pretending that even prodigious collections of nursery rhymes can do without this one—it's a must. (index) (Poetry. 2-8)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1993

Down in the schoolyard, as Opie (The Classic Fairy Tales, 1974, etc.) presents her impressions of exuberant playground life during the English equivalent of recess. At first, the junior-school scene in the town of Liss that Opie observes once a week for a period of years seems ``uncontrolled confusion,'' but gradually the author recognizes particular children, notes subtle patterns of play, and witnesses the ongoing exchange of ideas. Weather, she reports, matters less than playground geography or street activities (workmen of any kind always warrant attention), and gender signifies as well: Boys are more reckless, willing to fight or cry, while girls more often jump rope cooperatively or use conversation as a social activity. Fads come and go, structured games are few and far between, and disputation is ``the very spice of juvenile life.'' Jokes, especially dirty ones, are a frequent source of shared enjoyment, even when not fully understood, and are generally told with little self-consciousness or regard for others' sensitivities (in this group, Irish jokes resemble moron or Polish jokes). Opie's anecdotal re-creation will remind readers of their own past- -solitary children who hug the wall or pull up their socks; participants in fragile fantasies or spur-of-the-moment games; girls whispering intimacies; those who don't know what to do next but don't care; the sudden return to straight lines and formal deportment. Unlike the 1992 reissue of Opie's I Saw Esau, written with her late husband, Peter, this has no colorful Maurice Sendak illustrations interpreting the scene—but the text is nonetheless appealing for its heartening picture of children at play. (Two b&w plates) Read full book review >
I SAW ESAU by Iona Opie
Released: June 5, 1992

A collection of traditional schoolyard verse, winningly grouped in 31 subjects from "Beginning of Term" to "End of Term" ("No more beetles in my tea,/Making googly eyes at me") and including not just "Insults," "Riddles," and "Nonsense" but such creative headings as "Retaliation," "Guile—Innocent," "Book Desecration," and "Lullabies—Adolescent Style"—a book originally published in Britain in 1947 and now given glorious new life. Sendak peoples these small (5"X7") pages with hundreds of marvelous characters, many in the irresistible small size he used in the "Nutshell Library": delectable caricatures; cocky kids brimming with mischief (even some of the appealingly vulnerable babies have a wicked gleam in the eye); and more fearsome figures, reminders that—as children themselves well know—darkness ever lurks. Sendak also dramatizes the verses' challenging spirit in some splendidly witty and imaginative interpretations: Dr. Fell is truly ghoulish, but his victim remains undaunted. Scores of these pictures are masterpieces of illustration: lively, exquisitely designed, offering unexpected insights while enthusiastically celebrating their texts. Overall, the handsome format is worthy of the content, and the mood is insouciant glee. A treasure. New introduction by Iona Opic; notes, nicely leavened by Sendak's characters, who reappear among them. (Folklore. 5+) Read full book review >