cover image Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children

Lisa Wheeler, illus. by Sophie Blackall, S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4169-2541-5

This collection of Mother Goose parodies by Wheeler (Ugly Pie) and Blackall (Pecan Pie Baby) is as elegant as it is, like Mary, "quite contrary." The no-nonsense Spinster Goose oversees a reform school: "Not painted up pretty,/ it's mottled and gray./ The grounds are a nightmare./ (She likes it that way)." Blackall's pallid vignettes balance chilly poise and mordant humor. In one spread, a line of truculent children/animal hybrids slouch beneath Spinster Goose's gaze, one with a cigarette smoking behind her back. In "The Dirty Kid," medical-style spots provide closeups of the lice in bath-averse Polly Flinders's hair and the toejam between her toes. Wheeler adds some intellectual depth to the original nursery rhymes while grossifying them. Little Miss Muffet chews chalk, while a familiar Mary is recast as an unrepentant fibber ("Mary had a little lamb./ She said it was a horse./ But anyone with eyes could see/ it was a lamb, of course"). Though some may shrink from its clever ghastliness, kids with twisted senses of humor will feel right at home. Ages 5–up. (Mar.)