An unusual, lively collection of nursery rhymes sourced from historic texts.

This is not your average book of nursery rhymes.

This illustrated collection consists of verses sourced from historical anthologies and therefore contains poems that many Americans have most likely never encountered before. Many include nonsense words or onomatopoeia and are a pleasure to read out loud. The accompanying pictures feature a diverse cast of wide-eyed children, and, on several pages, the cleverly designed, multicolored type takes the shape of the rhyme it conveys. In a poem about flying, for example, the words are curved as though in flight, and in a verse about looking through a keyhole, the text gets progressively smaller along with the perspective. Some illustrations usefully provide pictorial definitions for vocabulary such as jelly, which in this case refers to a gelatin dessert, that is archaic or rooted in a European tradition that may be unfamiliar to readers without that background. Unfortunately, on other pages, words like tupenny and ha’penny are left without an illustrated reference, leaving definitions up to readers. Additionally, references to sausage and bacon might be problematic for families that come from traditions that traditionally avoid pork. Overall, the book is a thoughtfully curated and entertaining read for devotees of English and Anglo-American children’s verse or for adults looking to expose their children to nursery rhymes they may not otherwise hear. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.6-by-21.4-inch double-page spreads viewed at 39.3% of actual size.)

An unusual, lively collection of nursery rhymes sourced from historic texts. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1273-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021



A riff on the familiar lullaby depicts various animal parents, and then a human father, soothing their sleepy little ones.

An opening spread includes the traditional first verse of the titular lullaby, but instead of depicting a human baby in a treetop cradle, the accompanying illustration shows a large tree as habitat to the animals that are highlighted on subsequent pages. First the perspective zooms in on a painterly illustration rendered in acrylics of a mother squirrel cuddling her baby with text reading “Rock-a-bye Squirrel, / high in the tree, / in Mommy’s arms, / cozy as can be.” In this spread and others the cadence doesn’t quite fit with the familiar tune, and repeated verses featuring different animals—all opening with the “Rock-a-bye” line—don’t give way to the resolution. No winds blow, no boughs break, and the repetitive forced rhythm of the verse could cause stumbles when attempting a read-aloud. The final image of a human father and baby, whose skin tone and hair texture suggest that they are perhaps of South Asian descent, provides pleasing visual resolution in a book with art that outshines text.

Ho-hum. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3753-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017


Handsome but so sneaky as to be frustrating.

Youngsters are invited to find the object or creature that doesn’t fit in with a similar grouping of animals.

In arrays spread out on (mostly) double-page spreads, a rocking horse hides among a drove of real horses, a cat sits with a variety of breeds of dogs, and so on. The project is wordless except for the introductory text that introduces the game with echoes of Sesame Street: “One of these things is almost like the others….” Some of the groupings are quite clever: a straight belt is placed amid a row of curvy snakes, a mechanical crane is perched between a living crane and two other long-legged birds, and the sole human figure, who looks to be a shirtless white male, is the only being to walk on two legs in a primate troop. To assist guessers, the final double-page spread shows all the outliers from the subsequent groupings. Using only yellow, purple, and a deep and dusky brown that is created when these two shades are mixed, Contraire uses stencils to create his figures against a creamy white background. While many of the animals and objects are instantly recognizable, the contrast of the mostly yellow critters against white backgrounds makes identification tricky for the board-book set. And while the book design is handsome, the lack of color variation in the art gives the offering a one-note feel.

Handsome but so sneaky as to be frustrating. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7148-7422-7

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Close Quickview