Category Archives: Nursery rhymes

The Real Mother Goose


The Real Mother Goose 1916 illustration by Blanche Fisher Wright Gutenberg Project

The Real Mother Goose
1916 illustration by
Blanche Fisher Wright
Gutenberg Project

I love the poems from the Real Mother Goose.  I love how the words dance around in a sing-song fashion.  I love how they create word-pictures in your mind.

The Real Mother Goose was first written in 1916.  The 1966 introduction of this hugely popular book by May Hill Arbuthnot describes why it has persisted for 50 years.  The origins of the rhymes themselves are British through and through.  The name, though, comes from France.  Charles Perrault collected eight folk tales which he called “Tales of Mother Goose.”  This was in 1697.  About 100 years later, John Newbery printed a book of 52 verses, woodcut illustrations and even 16 songs from Shakespeare.  This was titled Mother Goose’s Melody.

When you read these verses out loud, you cannot help but to sing them.  The rhymes are catchy, with children learning to follow along with Gramma, then singing them out by themselves.  The child hears the verses, and repeats the verses back verbally.  Some of them also encourage physical movement, such as when Jack jumps over the candlestick.

1, 2, 3 4 5 I caught a hare alive Gutenberg Project

1, 2, 3 4 5
I caught a hare alive
Gutenberg Project

Some experts will explain the dark origins of many of these rhymes.  They may be true, but does it really matter?  The child does not know that “Ring around the Rosey” describes the black plague.  All she knows is that she can dance around and around singing this tune, then she gets to flop down with great drama.

The book has a variety of rhymes to select from: games, verses and people.  Children laugh at the cow jumping over the moon and at all the “funny sounds and bouncy rhymes.”

See how they run! from Gutenberg Project

See how they run!
from Gutenberg Project

But for me, it has always been about the illustrations.  As a child, I was drawn to the darling images but stayed for the words.  Arbuthnot explains that reading this large collection of more than 300 verses will help children know more words than if they’d never heard them read aloud.  Reading this book will introduce the child with a fun introduction to the pleasures of poetry.

The Gutenberg Project

The Gutenberg Project

Reading this book does not need to stop when the child reaches Kindergarten age.  Parents (and grandparents) should continue reading aloud until they are grown up, married and have children of their own.  Of course, I exaggerate, but not by much.

The name Mother Goose means something with, for or about children.  Youtube has the Mother Goose Club of songs and stories for children.  Personally, I find these silly at best.  Libraries have Mother Goose times where a volunteer reads some story to a group of children.  This event is designed to expose kids to reading and books.  But the best use of the name Mother Goose is simply placing the child on your lap and reading the stories to him.  Read with excitement.  Read with motion.  Read with passion.

Here is my version of three of these poems.  I originally intended them for my grandson, but I much prefer to read them in person!

All of the Mother Goose collection is in the public domain.

Here is one version from Gutenberg Project, edited by Eulalie Osgood Grover.

This one is the one I grew up with, also from the Guttenberg Project,  illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright.

Other versions:

The Only True Mother Goose Melodies

Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes

Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes

I have heard of Mother Goose in Prose, but have never read it.  Perhaps now is the time.  It is written by L. Frank Baum.  Yes, the same man who wrote about the Wizard of Oz.

Walt Disney made a film in 1931 entitled Mother Goose Melodies which I had never seen.  Here is one of those shorts:

{PS:  As I was writing about the three blind mice, my computer’s mouse died.  Is this an omen?}