Mother Goose – Kate Greenaway

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: o points.

A lot of what I said about Lavender’s Blue, the first book of nursery rhymes we encountered, applies here too. Many of the rhymes are the same rhymes, although this one is significantly older and so some have more archaic forms and slightly different lyrics to what are generally used in modern versions.

Kate Greenaway is generally considered one of the greats of children’s book illustrations – there is even a major children’s illustrator award named after her – but personally I find her illustrative style way too twee. This book is beautiful in the sens of being obviously out of its time, and the copy I had was a very small book which gave it a kind of old-world miniature charm. It’s an interesting thing to expose children to this sort of totally different aesthetic

As far as scoring goes, there is one rhyme where words are passed between women, but the women are nameless, so it doesn’t pass Bechdel. As for the rest, it fails pretty dismally, as you would expect a book published in 1881 to do. It is however an icon of our culture, and there is some value in that. C enjoyed it, though I suspect mostly because of the familiarity of many of the rhymes. It was shorter than Lavender’s Blue, but he still got bored partway through. It’s arguable that a book like this is meant to be dipped into, though, so I am giving it to the two points for being enjoyable anyway.

The book definitely has the sense of being a cultural treasure, and there is absolutely value in that. As someone who grew up with nursery rhymes ingrained in my head, I think there is something kind of magical about these rhymes passed down through so many generations that they have almost lost their original meaning, and yet children still know the words. So does it have its place? Certainly. But does it pass based on the criteria we’re working with here? Not even close.

What do you think? What’s your favourite nursery rhyme book? What’s your favourite nursery rhyme in general? Do you think it’s a dead artform we should leave behind, or do you think they still have value?

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