cover image The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense

The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense

Jon Scieszka, illus. by Julia Rothman. Candlewick, $19.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9434-0

In this children’s literature hat trick, Scieszka (the AstroNuts series) and Rothman (Can I Eat That?) mash up a loving spoof of the Blanche Fisher Wright classic, an introduction to Dadaism, and a tribute to Raymond Queneau’s renowned literary experiment Exercises in Style. Scieszka’s amanuenses are a flock of “Dada geese,” who wreak playful havoc on six nursery rhymes, creating six new variations on each. Some speak directly to reader experiences and interests; there’s a cursive-writ book report on “Jack Be Nimble” (“I liked this rhyme because there was some good action”), a pop quiz on “Hey Diddle Diddle,” and several versions involving secret codes. But the best examples gleefully dropkick the old chestnuts and see what new meaning falls out. These include a simile-laden version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (“Like a rug hung out to dry,/ Like a humming tsetse fly”) and a “Hickory Dickory” rendered in N+7—a language associated with Queneau’s circle that replaces “each noun in a text with the seventh noun following it in a dictionary.” Rothman collages Fisher Wright’s art (often featuring pale-skinned, early 20th-century figures) with an impressive array of graphic styles, including a comic strip, a map, and a recipe. Brains will be thoroughly twisted and tickled by this giddy, handsome celebration of language and logic. Back matter includes information on the variations employed. Ages 7–10. (Oct.)