March 16, 2020

#AtoZChallenge 2020 Theme: Nursery Rhymes

        This is a topic that checks a lot of my favorite boxes:
     - Nursery rhymes are some of the earliest poetry children learn, and usually include rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, onomatopoeia, wordplay, and other poetical devices.  They’re fun to say.
     - Many of them include fantastical elements that leave you asking Why?  How?  What’s going on here?  And sometimes even WTF?  They invite wondering, and sometimes disputing.
     - I will be featuring nursery rhyme illustrations that are relief block prints.  First and foremost, I will include my own nursery rhyme rubber block prints, most of which appear in my book Hey Diddle Diddle! and Other Rhymes.  I’ll be supplementing with wood block printed illustrations which come from some of the oldest books of nursery rhymes, as well as some more recent block prints I was able to find.
     - Because nursery rhymes are from oral tradition and have been around for a long time, there are a lot of different types and styles and variations.  Some derive from riddles, some from jokes, some tell a story, some just state the obvious, some derive from street vendors’ cries, some from lullabyes, some accompany hand play or games…  You get the idea!
        Whether these rhymes are childhood friends or unfamiliar and strange to you, I hope the illustrations and commentary will give you a little bit of new insight.  As for the historical and political origins of some of these rhymes, I’ll mention a few, but most of the alleged origins you may have heard of have absolutely no evidence to back them up.  Many people have heard, for example, that “Ring around the rosie” is full of references to the Great Plague.  There’s actually no historical evidence for this, and in fact the oldest known versions of the rhyme don’t even include the references that are often cited as relating to the
plague.  (It's nice to know that there's something that's unrelated to pandemic these days.)  Anyway, for the most part I’ll be taking these odd little “stories” on their own merits.  I like imagining the before, after, and around the edges of these little vignettes.
        Today I have some fun illustrations to get you in the spirit.  The first, from the title page of a 12-page chapbook, shows the magnificence of nursery rhymes.  The handsome boy exults in his nursery book while the beautiful doting mother looks on complacently, surrounded by the genteel splendor that will be yours, too, if your children’s moral and intellectual progress is properly developed with the reading of these amusing and educational verses.
        The rest of today’s block prints illustrate well-known rhymes that you will recognize if you had a traditional English-speaking childhood.  Most of them are represented by two illustrations each, for variety.  Altogether these block prints span about two centuries of books.
        Some of my favorite touches include the catkins on the tree behind Bo-Peep, which look like the tails that her sheep left behind them.  I like the graphic quality of Mother Hubbard’s big, blank black cupboard.  The older illustration of Jack and Jill goes for humorous exaggeration, and I’m also amused by My Son John’s evident self-satisfaction with his unconventional sleeping attire, well captured by the contemporary artist David Frampton.
        As always, I’m doing a modified A-to-Z schedule, starting early so that I can take some days off during April, so I’ll begin with A in my next post, but I will always include a link to the correct letter on any day in April, for those who want to keep on the proper schedule.  I hope you’ll stop by and comment!
        Do you have a favorite nursery rhyme?  We’ll see whether I feature it; you’ve got 26 chances!
        Here's where you can find the rest of the A to Z Challenge and links to all the participating blogs and their Theme Reveal posts.

[Pictures: Wood block print from The Nursery Rhymes, printed by J.L. Marks, 1835 (Image from Internet Archive);
Little Bo-Beep has lost her sheep…, color wood block print by Walter Crane from The Baby’s Opera, printed by Edmund Evans, c 1877 (Image from International Children’s Digital Library);
Little Bo-Peep, Jack and Jill, and Old Mother Hubbard, details from Nursery Rhymes, wood engraving by Gwenda Morgan, 1970 (Image from Kevis House);
Jack and Jill went up the hill, wood block print from Mother Goose’s Quarto of Nursery Rhymes published by McLoughlin Bros., nineteenth century (Image from International Children’s Digital Library);
Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard…, wood block print perhaps by Joseph Crawhall, from Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog printed by J.G. Rusher, nineteenth century (Image from Internet Archive);
Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John…, color wood block print by David Frampton from My Son John by Jim Aylesworth, 1994.]


Frédérique said...

Great theme, I'm looking forward to read your Nursery Rhymes ;)
My AtoZ Reveal

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Oooh, I'm looking forward to this one! Nursery rhymes were also great for learning English :)

Nilanjana Bose said...

I'm always fascinated by history - of everything, and also a poetry enthusiast. Look forward to reading!

Jade Li said...

I enjoyed the critters you did last year and looking forward to the block prints this year.

My theme is essential oils:

Deborah Weber said...

Love this post Anne and am delighted by your theme. I'm putting in my vote for "One is for Sorrow."

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Good to see you all. Thanks for stopping by!
Zalka, English-speaking children use nursery rhymes for learning English, too, although it would be amusing to think about what your speech would end up like if you had to learn from *nothing* but nursery rhymes!
Deborah, your vote is noted! ;)

Narayana Rao K.V.S.S. said...

Nursery rhymes supported by artwork. Shall definitely visit and read.

Trying to document IE practice in Top Global Engineering Companies. #AtoZChallenge April Writing
Industrial Engineering Practice in Top Global Manufacturing Companies - Top 100

Lisa said...

This is definitely one I need to boookmark!

Sundeep Ananth Dubey ( said...

Looks like an interesting theme. Cant wait for april to begin
Do check out if my theme interests you:

Kathe W. said...

How fun is this! Looking forward to following your A to Z! And thanks for your nice comments on my blog! Cheers!

Jen said...

What a great topic! Look forward to reading your posts on Nursery Rhymes... I know I sure loved them growing up :)

Thanks for stopping by Not Just A Coffee Mom.

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Fiona Kong said...

I'm very curious and interested in your theme. My 3 year old is very much into nursery rhymes now and when reading them, I often wonder how they came about!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Whoohoo, starting properly tomorrow! Looking forward to everyone else getting started! =)