cover image Mother Goose: Numbers on the Loose

Mother Goose: Numbers on the Loose

Leo Dillon, . . Harcourt, $17 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205676-6

A wholly original Mother Goose book, the Caldecott-winning Dillons' (Jazz on a Saturday Night , reviewed Aug. 6) collection of number rhymes is so imaginative and playful that each reading yields something new and unexpected. A cast of humans and animals parades across the stark white pages like carnival-goers, some of them sporting elaborate Renaissance masks and clothing. The sophisticated images, however, never interfere with the simplicity of the well-chosen rhymes. Brilliantly colored numbers, letters and inanimate objects become sideshow characters engaging in ancillary action. As the king is in his counting-house and the queen is in her parlor, a knobbly-skinned alligator dressed in a Sir Walter Raleigh–esque jacket and a cat in an Elizabethan ruff peer down from the roof. Opposite, the cat curls up in a laundry basket while the alligator gazes longingly at the blackbird who has just “snapped off” the cone-shaped nose mask of a maid hanging out the clothes. Numerous minor characters populate every page, and the Dillons endow each with distinct individuality. Two “O-U-T spells out” rhymes feature a queen and her froggy king deciding the fate of a chorus line of seven worried potatoes in purple fezes and frills, while opposite, Mary is seated on a milking stool and “eating cherries off a plate.” Despite the incongruities of plot and characters' sizes, the spread is remarkable for its unifying design and execution. Inventive, artistically dazzling and full of wit, this Mother Goose collection is absolutely irresistible. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)