Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox

by Erin Dealey

illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

Published by Atheneum

32 pages, 2002

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

illustrated by Sylvia Long

Published by Chronicle Books

32 pages, 2001

My World

by Margaret Wise Brown

illustrated by Clement Hurd

Published by HarperCollins

32 pages, 2001

Alligator Pie

by Dennis Lee

illustrated by Frank Newfeld

Published by Key Porter Kids

64 pages, 2001

Nothing Beats a Pizza

written and illustrated by Loris Lesynski

Published by Annick Press

32 pages, 2001

Fiddle-I-Fee

by Will Hillenbrand

Published by Harcourt

40 pages, 2002

Jason Mason Middleton-Tapp

by John Roy Bennett

illustrated by Isabelle Charbonneau

Published by Lobster Press

32 pages, 2000

Oddhopper Opera

by Kurt Cyrus

Published by Harcourt

32 pages, 2001

Ook the Book

by Lissa Rovetch

illustrated by Shannon McNeill

Published by Chronicle Books

32 pages, 2001

 

 

 

Books That Rhyme are Quite Sublime

Reviewed by India Wilson

 

It's something about the cadence of rhyme that makes this type of children's book so enduring and so consistently popular. Even in a world where fashionable poetry no longer bangs words together in so obvious a manner, books for young children often offer words that nest tightly within each other and bounce one from the next in a lovely verbal dance.

Goldie Locks has chicken pox;

from head to toe were polka dots.

"Where did you get them?" Father said.

But Goldie Only shook her head.

Obviously, the plot of Erin Dealey's Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox is not terribly complicated. Goldie Locks -- the same Ms. Locks, it seems, that trespassed on the home of The Three Bears -- comes down with a nasty case of chicken pox. While convalescing, she is visited by The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood ("Little Red came skipping by, her basket full of cake and pie.") Little Bo Peep and -- in my own favorite turn of phrase from this book -- even Henny Penny:

"The sky is falling!!!"

Henny squawked.

She had no time for

chicken pox.

Dealey reports that she was inspired to write Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox when her daughter came down with the itchy disease. Hanako Wakiyama's illustrations are loose, somewhat nostalgic and absolutely perfect for Dealey's dapper prose.

The device of using rhyme on a quest to captivate children's imagination is hardly new: storytellers have been utilizing the form for -- literally -- centuries. Some of the rhymes that have been charming children for a long time deserve the occasional updating they receive: why start all over again when you can jump off from something already well-loved? Especially since, with new treatment, it can be discovered by a whole new generation?

Arizona illustrator Sylvia Long has done that with several timeworn tales, including Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, Hush Little Baby and, most recently, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Long's version works really well, especially on a couple of levels. In the first place, even though most everyone is familiar with this nursery rhyme, almost no one knows all of it. Long allows us to discover or rediscover the poem in its entirety in her book.

Then the traveler in the dark

Thanks you for your tiny spark.

He could not see which way to go,

If you did not twinkle so.

Not the least of the book's charm are Long's vibrant and entrancing illustrations. In one panel, a well-dressed family of frogs enjoys a properly plated meal of insects. In another a baby chipmunk clad in acorn patterned pajamas brushes his teeth as he prepares for bed. In the next, the same young chipmunk kneels by his bedroom window and watches the night sky. And, in the end, all of our young animal friends are snoozing happily in comfortable-looking (human-style) beds.

In the 1940s author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd teamed up to create a handful of books that would prove to be enduring favorites. Goodnight Moon was one of their better known books. Two years later a companion piece to Goodnight Moon was published with the idea of bringing children back into the world that Wise Brown and Hurd had made so popular with their earlier effort. My World, like Goodnight Moon, features simple illustrations and simple rhymes as it follows a young rabbit around for a day while he enjoys all of the things in his everyday life:

My soap. Daddy's soap.

My soap will make soapsuds, I hope.

If we enjoy My World now, more than a half century after its initial publication, it is at least in part for the gentle nostalgia. Wise Brown and Hurd introduced children to a quiet, simple world at a time when the world was anything but. How much more true is that now?

Another republication from a simpler time is Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee with illustrations by Frank Newfeld. Originally published in 1974, Alligator Pie was republished along with several other of Lee's work around the time he was named Toronto's Poet Laureate in 2001. But Lee's awards have been many: he won the Governor General's Award for Poetry in 1972, the CACL Bronze Medal for Best Children's Book in English in 1974 (presumably for Alligator Pie) as well as the Phillips Prize in 1984, the Vicky Metcalfe Award in 1985 and the Mr. Christie's Book Award in 1991.

Alligator Pie is an acknowledged Canadian children's classic and the words Lee penned all those years ago are familiar to many young people who cut their rhyming teeth on his poems:

Alligator pie, alligator pie,

If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.

Give away the green grass, give away the sky,

But don't give away my alligator pie.

The new edition retains the happy 1970s feel of the original, through Frank Newfeld's cheery -- and sometimes kind of psychedelic -- illustrations.

Like Alligator Pie, Loris Lesynski's Nothing Beats a Pizza is a collection of zany, happy children's poems rather than a single story told in rhyme.

Nothing beats a pizza

when you're in a pizza mood

because a pizza isn't anything

like any other food

The title poem is fun, but only a very small portion of this whole rhyming pie. And the book ends with this cheerful warning:

Enjoy these poems, but be on guard:

your lips may fall off if you read them too hard.

While one read is enough to let you know that Lesynski is a talented -- and cheery -- wordsmith, take note of the competent and happy illustrations, as these are the author's, as well.

While rhyme in children's books is often fun, the addition of music brings a whole new element. Will Hillenbrand's Fiddle-I-Fee blends the thought of music with rich and lovely illustrations to the tune -- and lyrics -- of "Fiddle-I-Fee." If you don't remember the song, a bit of it goes like this:

I had a cat and my cat pleased me.

I fed my cat under yonder tree.

Cat plays fiddle-i-fee.

While the lyrics are those that you may -- or may not! -- remember, the storytelling here really comes through Hillenbrand's lush illustrations. What is perhaps hinted at in the song -- and what Hillenbrand brings to life -- is that the animals on the farm have a happy secret to spring on the farmer.

For the truly musically inclined, the author has included the music for "Fiddle-I-Fee" on the book's first page.

Jason Mason Middleton-Tapp by John Roy Bennett revisits the classic storybook theme of the little boy who didn't want to take his nap. Once his bedroom door is closed, Jason Mason gets right down to the business of not sleeping.

Jason Mason Middleton-Tapp

Is not quite in the mood to nap

So with a little jar of glue

And ink a snazzy shade of blue

He gives himself a great hairdo

While he's supposed to be napping Jason Mason gets into all sorts of trouble: he finger-paints his shirt, turns his eiderdown into a snow blizzard, "and with his pillow for a sled and Teddy riding on his head he goes tobogganing down his bed." And so on. And all the while, though this is never mentioned, all of his toys (with the exception of Teddy who is included in all the fun) watch the proceedings with some disapproval: peeping with concern out of the toybox or from under the bed.

Interestingly, Jason Mason never gets his comeuppance for creating such a mess. Rather, the story ends with him contemplating what fun he'll get up to during his next naptime.

In Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses by Kurt Cyrus, in addition to fun and interesting verse starring bugs, we're treated to Cyrus' superlatively good illustrations. Sometimes almost photo-realist in nature, we're given a bug's eye view of a garden, both in illustrations and verse. Nor are these icky-yucky bugs. Cyrus' bugs are glorious visions in texture and color, inviting us to examine this fuzzy caterpillar marching over a squash or that brightly colored beetle munching on a cabbage.

Rutabagas, red potatoes, cabbages, and beans,

Chubby, lumpy pumpkins and a clump of collard greens.

Grab and gulp and gobble-gobble -- never get enough.

Cram it in there! Bust a button! Stuff, stuff, stuff.

A charmingly beautiful book.

Shannon McNeill's illustrations for Ook the Book and Other Silly Rhymes are almost startlingly different and perfectly suited to a children's picture book with a happy edge. Author Lissa Rovetch's rhymes are perfectly silly: the kind of tongue-grabbing nonsense that is quite irresistible at almost any age:

I am Et,

Et the pet.

Et the wet pet in a net.

Do you need a wet net pet?

You can get

me free I bet.

Don't look here for intellectual enrichment, but the combination of McNeill's deceptively simple -- yet wonderfully executed -- illustrations with Rovetch's catchy but simple rhymes is happy and perfect. | February 2002

 

Freelance writer and artist India Wilson has a hard time making her name rhyme with anything at all.