An old nursery rhyme expands with great silliness and literary sophistication.
Opening with the traditional six-line “Little Miss Muffet,” the narrative quickly becomes theatrical—literally. “The curtain opens on a lovely house,” say boxed stage directions, which also explain that the maids and gardener will play the chorus, changing costumes according to scene, and that “the narrator remains offstage.” Our protagonist’s given name is Patience, but she’s not your parents’ Miss Muffet—nor her parents’ Miss Muffet, not quite, rejecting their urges toward primness (mother) and entomology (father). She wants only to fiddle, so—after her mother steals her violin, and Webster the Aranea loucutus (talking spider) helps her find it—they leave home and meet an ever growing cast that includes Bo-Peep (another fiddler!), Old King Cole’s court, a rooster, some robbers, and a French poet. In stylized mixed media, Litchfield gives his tiny-footed, bulbous-nosed, elastic-necked white characters enormous speech bubbles for their…songs, perhaps? The text presents poems of myriad types—villanelle, Spanish sestet—which could be read or recited, or, with dedication, could be the script of a grand honking musical. Between the ever changing rhythms and rhyming structures and the alternating (sometimes interrupting!) voices in monologue, dialogue, chorus, and stage direction, reading aloud requires vigilance. Even the rhymes’ refinement level varies: “barbarian” with “vegetarian” in the same poem as “enemy” with “venomy.”
Serious fun whether read or performed. (Picture book. 7-10)