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MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB by Sarah Josepha Hale


by Sarah Josepha Hale & illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

Age Range: 3 - 6

Pub Date: March 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7614-5824-1
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

This classic poem, written in 1830, continues to be a favorite childhood rhyme for illustrators to illuminate. Huliska-Beith has chosen to illustrate her version with acrylic, gouache and fabric collages, digitally assembled. Her style aims for gently exaggerated humor, especially the schoolkids’ reactions when they "see a lamb at school." The characters have oversized heads, fabric-patterned clothing and teeny noses. Mary is blonde with puffy, rouged cheeks and wears red cowboy boots, while the lamb’s coat looks like swirls of meringue. Most modern readers will probably be surprised to discover several extra stanzas, and the sentimental, 19th-century language may leave them cold: The teacher advises the children, "And you each gentle animal / in confidence may bind, / and make them follow at your call, / if you are always kind." An author’s note provides a bit of history of the rhyme, citing a dubious (evidently unfounded) claim by Mary Sawyer Tyler that she was the “original” Mary. There is a flock of versions, from board books to big books, and spoofs (Jack Lechner and Bob Staake fracture the tale in Mary Had a Little Lamp, 2008) to sing-alongs, but many are out of print. Kids will respond to the embellished silliness of this one, but for charm, Salley Mavor’s stitchery images can’t be beat (2000). Music is not included. (Picture book. 3-6)