May 4, 2020

#AtoZChallenge 2020 Reflections

        The April A to Z Blog Challenge is over for 2020, and that means it’s time for the quiz.  That’s right; had you forgotten that I told you to keep your eyes open for various things through the course of the Challenge?
     1. How many Jacks were featured?
     2. How many “Old” people were mentioned?
     3. How many mice appeared in illustrations?
     Extra Credit.  Stuart mentioned in a comment the prevalence of threes.  How many sets of three did you notice?
        I had a great time this year.  I worked very hard to have all my posts completely finished before the Theme Revelation, so that during the month I could spend my time visiting other blogs instead of writing my own.  Unfortunately, I had a difficult time with comments not taking on other blogs, which I’m sure depressed the total number of comments for my blog as well as for those I was visiting.  Eventually I figured out that on some blogs I could leave comments as long as I did not include my own blog web site.  Annoying, but oh well.
        Today I have for you the illustrations to a few more favorite nursery rhymes that didn’t make it into the A-Z.  First, Little Jack Horner.  The essence of Little Jack Horner is, in my opinion, how pleased he is with himself for the simple (if not very genteel) act of fishing a plum out of his pie.  Neither of these illustrations really captures his self-satisfaction.  In the first he looks more surprised than anything else, and in the second the little dog looks more pleased than Jack.  I do like the contrast of the two wood block styles, though: color vs black and white, and bold shapes vs outlines and details.  They’re both very much of their respective time periods.
        Next are three illustrations of the old woman tossed up in a basket (to sweep the cobwebs from the sky, in case you’re not familiar with this one).  In my opinion any illustration of this nursery rhyme should include all the important elements: old woman, basket, moon, broom, cobwebs.  Surprisingly few of them include all five.  Many give her a broom but no basket, which makes her look like a witch, and most leave out the cobwebs, which I think are a delightful fantasy image.  But between these three illustrations we’ve got everything.  (Remember that you can always click the pictures to see them a bit bigger.)
        And finally, Three Blind Mice, which is another rhyme that appears too recently to be represented in the older wood block illustrated books.  It’s also one of those rhymes with unpleasant content, if you think about it too hard, and yet children love it.  The top two illustrations are details from the same large page on which the song is written out with mice for all the musical notes.  It includes both basic approaches to depicting the mice: anthropomorphizing them, or leaving them as nature intended.  The final illustration nicely captures the little bit of paradox or ambiguity in the rhyme: it isn’t clear who’s the aggressor or who’s the victim here.  The mice chased the farmer’s wife, and the farmer’s wife cut off their tails, but we can’t tell from the textual evidence which came first or whether one was the cause of the other.  I think it’s safe to say that all four characters lost their self-control and reacted impetuously, but what do you think?  Who started it?
        (My apologies to Deborah that her favorite nursery rhyme One is for sorrow didn’t make the list!)
        One additional nursery rhyme trick that everyone should know: the Defenestration Song.  The tune is like that of “Polly Wolly Doodle.”  You start singing the nursery rhyme of your choice for the first 3 lines (or one and a half, depending how you make line breaks), and then… Well, allow me to demonstrate.
Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, eating his Christmas pie.
He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum, and threw it out the window!
The window, the window, the second story window,
He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum, and threw it out the window!
        Here’s another:
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he.
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl, and he threw them out the window!
The window, the window, the second story window,
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl, and he threw them out the window!
        It never fails to produce high comedy of the most sophisticated variety.  (Although admittedly it won’t work with rhymes too short to reach the window, or those with too radically different a rhythm.)  You now have it within your power to spend hours of easy self-entertainment at home.  You’re welcome!
        And now for the answers to the quiz.
        Jacks - Three were mentioned explicitly during the Challenge (see the Theme Reveal, and the letters J, and L), plus another today = 4.  In addition, however, the Knave of Hearts (under Q) could be considered a Jack if you use the American name for the playing card, and the Zany (under Z) is a sort of Jack, as explained in that post, for a total of 6.
        Old people - 6: Old Mother Hubbard (Theme Reveal), Old King Cole (F), Old Woman in a shoe (O), Old Woman who ate victuals (V), Grand Old Duke of York (Y), Old Woman tossed up in a basket (today).
        Mice - 8 (of which 6 were in my block prints), plus 2 rats (of which one was in an illustration of mine).  You can find them 2 at C, E, J, 2 at K, 3 at M, and W.  However, I’ve given you 9 more today, which makes a grand total of 19!  (There were also 34 domestic cats plus a tiger, and only 8 dogs.)
        Threes - 6 sets of 3.  Look for them at B, F, G, K, T, and today.
        How did you score?
        And finally, the shameless plug: if you enjoyed my illustrations, I do have a book available here.  (It does not contain all the commentary in this blog or the illustrations by other artists - just a dozen of the nursery rhymes and my own illustrations, and a single parenthetical comment for each.)
         To everyone who came by and commented for the A to Z Challenge, thank you!  I very much enjoyed hearing from you.  Feel free to stick around now that April is over.  I have some fun art activities to post in the coming weeks, plus some cool conversations with other writers and artists that I’ve been working on.  Until next time, stay well!

[Pictures: Little Jack Horner, color woodcut on fabric by Federal Art Project (Wisconsin), 1937-8 (Image from National Gallery of Art);
Little Jack Horner, wood block print from Nursery Rhymes published by W. Walker and Son, 1830 (Image from Internet Archive);
There was an old woman tossed up in a basket…, color wood engraving by Philip Reed from Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes, 1963;
Detail from Old woman tossed up, color wood block print by Walter Crane from The Baby’s Bouquet, cut and printed by Edmund Evans, c 1879 (Image from Project Gutenberg);
Old Woman tossed up, wood block print from Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes, published by Allen Brothers, 1869 (Image from International Children’s Digital Library);
Two details from Three Blind Mice, wood engraving by Winslow Homer, 1871 (Image from Minneapolis Institute of Art);
Three Blind Mice, wood block print by Walter Crane from The Baby’s Opera, printed by Edmund Evans, c 1877 (Image from International Children’s Digital Library).]


Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks for this year’s theme - it was a hoot! And the art was beautiful, plus I like the way you have analysed it. Well done, Anne!

Kristin said...

I enjoyed your theme and all the different illustrations. I don't remember the rhyme about the old woman sweeping the cobwebs from the moon. I will have to look it up. I got a zero on the quiz! I didn't even realize I should have been taking notes. LOL

John Holton said...

I really enjoyed your theme, when I found your blog. I'll be back during the A to Z Road Trip to read the ones I missed.

Rob Z Tobor said...

You did a good job on the A to Z and I like this post as it sort of links it all together. I only visited a couple of Blogs this year due to various reasons, but this is a good one . . .

Take care and I hope to be back soooooooon

Frédérique said...

Great challenge, but sorry, I didn't count the mice and other Jacks ;)

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Oh well, I give you all so much extra credit for leaving a comment that you all get A's. ;)