No fewer than 50 cartoonists and comic-book artists provide distinctive visual riffs on as many nursery rhymes in this memorable showcase.
Featuring plenty of the usual chestnuts (“Mary Had A Little Lamb,” “Hey, Diddle Diddle,” etc.) interspersed with an array of such less-well-known entries as “The Lion and the Unicorn,” “Yon Yonson,” “Cindereller” and “There Was an Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket,” the choice of verses alone makes this a refreshing change of pace for children and parents. The “rich, loam-like mix” of artists, as scholar Leonard Marcus puts it in his well-caffeinated introduction, gives these “nutshell narratives” a “back-story elaboration” that ranges from “endearing slapstick” to “noir-ishly operatic high drama.” Lucy Knisley’s “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” is a tattooed rocker who runs a daycare center. David Macaulay repeatedly builds up London Bridge in typically complete and precisely drawn detail. Each of Cyril Pedrosa’s five little piggies has a (sometimes fatal) encounter with a wolf. Most of the illustrations are framed in sequential panels, though Jules Feiffer, Craig Thompson, Gahan Wilson and some others take more freestyle narrative approaches. Visually far more complicated than the usual toddler-friendly nursery fare, this is best saved for older children—and for parents who crave a little graphic stimulation after putting baby to bed.As much as the visual styles may vary, the high levels of wit and invention never falter. (Graphic nursery rhymes. 5 & up)