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Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

Mother Goose and Other Nursery Rhymes

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Cover of the Pocketful of Posies, a children's book of nursery rhymes

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

While the 65 nursery rhymes in Pocketful of Posies are a nice mix of familiar and little-known Mother Goose rhymes, it is the unique artwork by artist Salley Mavor that makes this children's book so special. It would make a wonderful gift for expectant parents and parents of very young children.

The Illustrations by Salley Mavor

Artist Salley Mavor has created wonderful hand-sewn fabric relief collages on backgrounds of fuzzy felt for each of the nursery rhymes. Her book was recognized for its excellence with the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in the Picture Book category. In both single- and double-page spreads, Mavor has created magical scenes, filled with color, detail and activity. The artist uses a variety of stitches and lots of different colors of embroidery thread to embellish each scene.

Mavor uses objects from nature, including bark, driftwood, shells and acorns, as well as manmade objects, such as buttons, beads and bells, to further embellish her fabric collages. The felt animals and people are stuffed, which lends a 3D effect to each collage. The rich colors in the textured backgrounds of the collages are generally muted except for an occasional brighter orange and a deep red. Light green, pink, blue, tan and goldenrod are most frequently used.

The heads of Mavor's nursery rhyme characters are made of little wooden balls with hand-painted faces and their colorful embellished clothing adds to their appeal. These characters are a diverse group, with lots of children represented. Some spreads contain collages that incorporate 3 or 4 nursery rhymes.

For example, one double-page spread includes Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake baker's man; Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe and Polly, put the kettle on. Against a fuzzy pink background are the facades of three little stores, created from various shades of felt and heavily embroidered. In the window of the shop with a bread sign on it, the baker stands holding a cake with a big "B" on it while a mother pushing a baby carriage walks by. In the window of the cobbler's shop, the cobbler is working on a shoe between samples of his work. In the window of the shop with the hanging teapot sign, are two girls, one holding a cup and saucer, the other holding a teapot. Walking just past the shop under a heavily embroidered tree are a father and son.

It is this painstaking attention to detail, which can be found in every collage, along with Salley Mavor's ever-present artistry that make children want to look at Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes again and again. Happily, the illustrations are so appealing that parents will also enjoy looking at them multiple times, often finding something new to appreciate.

In her Author's Note at the end of Pocketful of Posies, Salley Mavor describes creating the illustrations and says, "I made all of the parts, including the people, animals, trees, and houses, separately and then sewed them to the wool felt backgrounds, to build a new scene for every illustrations. Each piece of art was then photographed and printed onto the pages of the book."

The Contents of Pocketful of Posies

A helpful index of first lines enables the reader to quickly locate each rhyme. You will recognize many of these nursery rhymes, including such Mother Goose rhymes as: Hey, diddle, diddle; Hickory, dickory dock; Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Mary, Mary, quite contrary; Old Mother Hubbard; One, two, buckle my shoe; Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater; Jack and Jill went up the hill; Simple Simon met a pieman; Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool and This Little Pig Went to Market.

There are also a number of lesser-known nursery rhymes and some I had never heard before. These included: I eat my peas with honey; Rain on the green grass; The big ship sails on the alley-alley-oh; and There was an old woman lived under a hill. Many of the rhymes in Pocketful of Posies are very short and you'll find your child will pick them up quickly.

Pocketful of Posies: My Recommendation

There are so many benefits of sharing nursery rhymes with your child that I am in favor of sharing nursery rhymes with babies, as well as toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners. You start with the words alone. The rhythm and rhyming in Mother Goose rhymes makes them very appealing to even the youngest listener. If your little one loves Mother Goose rhymes, consider a Mother Goose Party for your baby's first birthday.

When your child is older, you'll want to share the book and together enjoy, discover and discuss all that the illustrations bring to the nursery rhymes. Even when toddlers are ready for their own Mother Goose board books, they will still continue to enjoy Pocketful of Posies. In fact, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes is not only the type of book that makes a good gift, but due to the remarkable illustrations, it is also a book that families will want to pass down from one generation to the next. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. ISBN: 9780618737406

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