In the last several years, many bookstores have had to allocate more and more shelf space to new Mother Goose books and reprints of old favorites. Many of these books are beautifully designed and illustrated. In some, Mother Goose is a goose; in others, she is an old woman who rides a goose. In either case, Mother Goose collections contain from about 50 to 300 traditional nursery rhymes, such as "Jack and Jill went up the hill," "Mary, Mary, quite contrary," "One, two, buckle my shoe," and "Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater."
What is the appeal of these nursery rhymes? Children find the rhymes and alliteration appealing and humorous. Many of the rhymes are short and easy for children to learn. Add to that the striking illustrations in the recent Mother Goose collections, and you can see why even a very young child would enjoy both words and pictures.
From an educator's perspective, nursery rhymes play an important role in a child's developing phonemic awareness. We tend to think that learning to read begins with learning the alphabet. However, children first need to be aware of the individual sounds that make up words. Nursery rhymes can help children develop that phonemic awareness.
Here is a quick look at some of the best Mother Goose books, including several personal favorites. See my review of Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, for information about one of my new favorites. Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, published by Chronicle Books, is filled with the artist's whimsical artwork featuring animals, done in pen and ink with watercolor. Clare Beaton's Mother Goose Remembers stands out because of the artist's hand-sewn illustrations, which utilize felt, linen, and other fabrics, and the accompanying sign-a-long CD. Barefoot Books is the publisher. My Very First Mother Goose was published by Candlewick Press. It is a large and bright book, edited by Iona Opie, a Mother Goose rhyme expert, and illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose, published by HarperCollins, is brim-full of her cheerful, charming artwork. Three of the collections of Mother Goose rhymes that I recommend, Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, and two on my board books list (see below), were illustrated by Tomie dePaola, one of my favorite illustrators.
When I first wrote about Mother Goose books, I could only find one board book I would recommend, but when I looked more recently, I found five Mother Goose board books that I like. Whatever books you select, I hope you will share Mother Goose rhymes on a regular basis with your children.