My children and I are very fond of both traditional fairy stories, and more contemporary reworking of them. We love everything from The Stinky Cheese Man to Ella Enchanted. We love humorous re-tellings like The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, and Little Red especially, and we are always looking for new additions to the genre to share.
Other Goose: Re-Nurseried and Re-Rhymed Children’s Classics by J. Otto Seibold looked right up our street when we discovered it in the library and we rushed it home immediately. Surreal, brightly coloured illustrations and bonkers nursery rhymes seemed perfect.
How wrong we were.
Never have we been so united in our dislike of a book.
Half way through, my twelve year old daughter said: ‘These are the sort of rhymes I would write, and I would know they were terrible.’
My son said at the end: ‘I just don’t understand them.’
My eldest daughter didn’t stop to finish the book and applauded us for getting to the end.
It may be that this is so obviously written for an American audience that we are not in a position to understand some of the allusions in the text. I find this hard to believe, as we have read plenty of American books before with no problem. I think I’m just clutching at straws trying to find something at least half way positive to say about it if I’m honest.
The rhymes are pretty incomprehensible and we did not find them funny. I realise that nursery rhymes are for the large part, utter nonsense, but this was nonsense we did not like at all. Maybe the nonsense of the traditional rhymes works for us because they are traditional, and are kind of acceptable because of our memories of them, and because this is what we know. For whatever reason, and we discussed it for a while, we really got upset about the fact that these new versions of the rhymes didn’t make any sense. That in itself might not make sense, but I can only report our reading experience to you.
After an initial enthusiasm for the psychedelic style illustrations we got pretty sick of them. Again, we had a lot of trouble understanding them. We didn’t really understand how they related to the text. It felt sometimes like they had just been bolted on as a kind of afterthought.
Maybe the book was just trying too hard. It was a huge format book with massive illustrations and ridiculously overblown rhymes. Everything was a bit too garish, a bit too in your face, a little bit too wacky. The only thing that wasn’t loud and proud were the rhymes, which were not very long at all for the most part. We just really didn’t like the book, and although I usually find something positive to say about every book I review, I’m pretty stuck here.