"Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly,
lavender's green: when I am king...
you shall be queen."
I have read, and as a matter of fact have owned quite a number of nursery rhyme collections over the years. Many have been very good, some have been great, there were a few rather poorly done ones that popped up now and again and of course each year quite a number of new versions are published around the world. I must say though, that the book being reviewed here could quite well be the granddaddy (or grandmother) of them all! Year after year it has held its own and several generations of children have been raised with this one.
A good nursery rhyme as three main characteristics; it can be read as a poem, it can be sung as a song and, for the most part, can be acted out in one way or anther. Most of the rhymes in this work are classics that have been around for years and years; as a matter of fact quite a number of them have been around for multiple centuries in one form or another.
Now reader take note: Many of the nursery rhymes in this work are not the gentle little stories that are being produced and written these days for the youngest members of our families. My goodness no! Many of these old original stories; and indeed, they are stories, have a rather violent aspect to them, unhappy endings and they most certainly are not gender neutral! You could say that some of them are down right politically incorrect by our today's standards. (More about this later).
This particular collection of nursery rhymes was first published around 1954 and has not been out of print since that time. There are reasons for this. First, it is one of the most comprehensive collections of children's poems to date. Secondly, the author has pretty well stuck to the original (if, in the case of these old stories, "original" can be defined and identified) and recorded them as such. Thirdly, and just as important as the words found in the text, are the illustrations by Harold Jones...they simply do not get much better than this. A good nursery rhyme book needs; almost demands, good illustrations and we certainly get them here.
"Sing a Song of Sixpence," Humpty Dumpty," "Hey Diddle Diddle," "Bye, Baby Bunting.," they are all here folks!
The lessons taught and the lessons to be learned in many of these rhymes are just as valid today as they were decades and centuries ago. One of the nice things about a collection such as this is the wide, wide variety of subject matter. Most of these are to be read to the child rather than the child reading for themselves. This gives the parent the option of what to read and what not to read according to what the individual parent deems appropriate for their young one. I personally find no fault in any of the verses here; hey, I was raised on them!
Note: I have seen a trend over the past twenty years or so, of anthologies such as this being heavily annotated by learned folks detailing and explaining obscure and nonsense words and phrases. I find this trend rather disturbing in a way. Little kids (Note that these are called NURSERY rhymes), for the most part could care less about the meaning of the words. It is the rhyme and rhythm of the piece that matters. Often times complete nonsense words are much more effective in soothing and entertaining than "regular," and acceptable words.
Every kid needs a collection of nursery rhymes made available and I truly feel that a person could do far worse than selecting this one to meet that need.
Note: The poem Lavender's Blue was performed as a folk song (modified a bit) by the great Burl Ives...check it out!
Note: I see that on the prduct page that this book is targeted for the 4-8 group age. I do not agree with this. Many of these rhymes can be read to children much, much younger and can be quite effective.