This quirky Mother Goose book turns convention on its head.
Each of the 14 selections contemporizes a traditional rhyme and pairs it with a rebuttal or an aside by a grumpy protagonist. The vegetarian princess in “Sing a Song of Sixpence” waxes poetic about freeing blackbirds while (inexplicably) dealing with “four-and-twenty cantaloupes / stashed inside my jeans.” Her grumpy maid, however, launches into an unwieldy tirade about avian-infested pies. “A bloke poked his head out the window. / King wants another pie! he cried. / I mumbled a few choice words, I did. / Who, I ask you, in their right mind / bakes pies of birds?” The double-page format facilitates the flow from reworked verse to denouement. Spoon is pleased with her rescue from fiddling cats and moon-leaping cows, and Plum rants against Jack Horner's skewering thumb. Matteson’s acrylic-and–colored-pencil illustrations on wood board smoothly incorporate racial diversity; Jack Horner is black, and King Cole and his daughter have light-brown skin and kinky hair. The artwork is lively and fanciful—Humpty rides a skateboard, and Miss Muffet’s plotting spider strums a banjo. However, the collection is in want of an audience. Rather than poems clearly written for children, this latest Yolen/Dotlich collaboration (Grumbles from the Forest, 2013) comes across as a creative-writing exercise. The original nursery rhymes and historical notes are appended (to the detriment of the new rhymes).
An inventive miss. (Picture book. 5-9)