Outstanding collections of nursery rhymes are so numerous that I approached Kady MacDonald Denton's new collection with reservations. What more can be done with nursery rhymes? But perhaps they are an inexhaustible field, for to my delight this is a volume lovely in soft watercolours, varied in its choice of rhymes. Above all, the arrangement and illustrations are full of sly and gentle wit.
How wonderful to be surprised. Here are Jack and Jill-two cats attempting to climb a brilliantly coloured green chair opposite Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall; Harry Akst and Benny Davis's "Baby Face" is in the Baby section; and juxtaposed with "One Misty, Moisty Morning" is Christina Rossetti's "Who Has Seen the Wind?"
The vibrant watercolour illustrations are reminiscent of those of Maurice Sendak in I Saw Esau, but whereas his have an edge of cruelty in keeping with the adult quality of that book, Denton's are kinder (though without sweetness) and more suitable for young children. There is variety of layout and design. In most cases the background is white but there are exceptions. Section headings are bordered in calico. Some pages contain just one rhyme; some have several on a similar theme; occasionally there is a double-paged spread to please the eye. Illustrated running rhymes in the top corner of each page add rhythm and movement to the text, and balloon inserts and asides add extra fun. My only reservation is that I wish there had been more non-white faces.
This is a collection composed with great care, thought, and humour. It will bring much pleasure to both adults and children as they share it together.
Julie Glazier's title is English ESL Curriculum Advisor, Toronto District School Board. She unashamedly enjoys children's and teenagers' books, and not only because they are professionally useful.