Lynn: I have a tendency toward morose reflection in the last week of a waning year. An antidote is needed and I found an outstanding one in Jon Scieszka’s The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Nonsense (Candlewick, 2022). This delightful book is just what the reading doctor prescribed for diverting gloom and eliciting laughter.
Just to refresh: Dada is creating art through humor and absurdity. And what could be better to take us smiling into the New Year? Scieszka takes his start with the classic collection The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright, published by Rand McNally in 1916. Trust me, it is just the platform for an incredible dive into what imagination and humor can do. Scieszka chose 6 well-known Mother Goose Rhymes. He begins each of 6 chapters with the original rhyme and then follows with Dada word play on the rhymes. Hey Diddle Diddle, for example, has the Dada treatment applied with a Haiku, a recipe, a Pop Quiz and a map. Hickory Dickory Dock appears in Egyptian Hieroglyphs, a Crossword puzzle and an “N + 7” code. Each new poem is a puzzle and each is a wonderfully clever.
Julia Rothman’s illustrations are done in mixed media. They are created in the style of the original Mother Goose book but, using Dada style, she includes whimsical touches including a yellow goose that appears throughout the book. The book design too is masterfully done making it appealing, easy to read and to appreciate the many details while also giving a nod to the reader’s sense of the absurd.
Also provided are Notes on all the forms, puzzles and codes used throughout the book. These are really fun to read and it is impossible not to want to instantly start creating your own versions. Included here too is a Mother Goose history and information about Blanche Fisher Wright.
This would be a fantastic book to use in a language arts classroom to read aloud, as a sponge activity with real value and as a writing prompt. I guarantee it will take you into the New Year smiling.