CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 14. . . . March 14, 2003
These four little board books each deal with a single nursery rhyme. In Jack and Jill, the hill climbing pair are soft fabric pigs, and when Jack tumbles down the hill, his damaged pate receives a band-aid from a sweater-wearing teddy bear who had been planting flowers at the bottom of the hill. Collins' visual story within the rhyme is that the pigs' motivation for climbing the hill to the well was to obtain water for the newly planted flowers. The only slight weakness in the illustrations is found in the "And broke his crown" double page spread which shows a scuff mark on Jack's head, an image which really does not explain the phrase to a young child.
In Hey Diddle Diddle, a visual night time adventure, the stuffed toys appear to be having a nocturnal picnic, but whose first birthday it is remains a mystery for Jill runs off with the cake on a plate, pursued by a spoon-wielding Jack. Pat-A-Cake finds the red hen assisting a little baby bunny in making a cake. While the illustrations reveal that the enterprise was most messy, the closing spread of the pair sharing a rocking chair and the cake reveals that the effort was worthwhile. While many people, including Little Miss Muffet, are afraid of spiders, Collins' illustrations in Little Miss Muffet leave the message that not all people fear arachnids for the final illustration portrays Miss Muffet's companion, the little stuffed cow, happily sharing Miss Muffet's discarded "cottage cheese" with the spider.
Though each of the rhyme books stands alone, Collins' connects them by having the principal stuffed toy characters from one book reappear as minor players in other nursery rhymes. Consequently, while the fiddle-playing purple cat "stars" in Hey Diddle Diddle, youngsters turning to the book's opening spread will recognize the two pigs from Jack and Jill, the red hen from Pat-A-Cake and Little Miss Muffet from the rhyme of the same name.
In addition to being part of collections serving pre-readers, this gentle quartet of books would make wonderful gifts to new parents who could then share the rhymes' wonderful rhythms with yet another generation.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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