Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists with an Introduction by Leonard S Marcus, edited by Chris Duffy, published by First Second Books


Aside from Françoise Mouly (TOON BOOKS) and Art Speigelman's brillinat Little Lit collections of folklore, fairy tales and funny (and scary) stories, illustrated in comic book format by a truly remarkable collection of artists (Jules Feiffer, Maurice Sendak, Barbara McClintock, David Macaulay, Daniel Clowes and William Joyce, to name a few) and authors (see previous list and add: Lemony Snickett, David Sedaris and Neil Gaiman) I can't think of any other place to find such a spectacular collection of creative types contributing to one very reasonably priced book. That is, until First Second had the genius to bring us Nursery Rhyme Comics.

I thought and thought about what to write in this review and even considered letting the pictures below do all the talking. But, as I read and reread children's book historian Leonard S Marcus' introduction to the book, I realized that he has perfectly summed up the brilliance and wonder of this book and, in light of that I will finish my review by quoting from him and allow you to peruse the pictures yourselves. Leonard begins,

Spry, melodic rhymes like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" have entertained generations of children while also demonstrating that words have the power to delight - not just convey more pedestrian messages like "See Spot run" and "Put away your toys." It's no accident that so many of the se (mostly anonymous) rhymes have lasted for centuries, passed down by word of mouth and a forest of illustrated books, though none illustrated quite like the book you have before you.

Marcus goes on to point out that "nursery rhymes make fertile ground for comics artists" because the old rhymes we know and love "beguile in part by sounding so emphatically clear about themselves while in fact leaving almost everything to the imagination." Marcus gives the example of "Hickory Dickory Dock." Is the mouse a "helpless bystander," as Marcus had imagined in his childhood, or is he a "slapstick superhero," as Stephanie Yue imagines in her interpretation of the nursery rhyme.

Marcus' observation is truly an astute one. While we all still known and sing these rhymes, how often to we really pay attention to them, in print or otherwise? Looking anew at these rhymes, with Marcus' perspective in mind, reading this book can be (besides just plain fun) educationally useful. As he notes,  emerging will "recognize the comics format with its characteristically small word clusters, abundance of visual cues, and funhouse ambiance, precisely the funhouse ambiance most helpful for honing and testing their fledgling skills." And, anyone else around (older brothers or sisters) who has developed an interest in graphic novels and manga will be pulled in to and fascinated by the "rich, loam-like mix of the book's assembled company of artists, some perhaps well known to them and others ripe for discovering."  Finally, Marcus notes that, in a time of a "mind-bending barrage of images aimed at momentarily engulfing our attention, it is refreshing to come across a book that encourages readers to linger over each and every one of its pages."

Below are images from the book with attributions and links to the artists' websites below, when available. Other contributors include - Jules Feiffer, Raina Telgemeier, Lark Pein, Eleanor Davis and Gene Yan, all creators whose work has been featured at in the past.

Matthew Ellseworth


Source : Review Copy

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