cover image Mother Goose

Mother Goose

Sylvia Long. Chronicle Books, $22.99 (109pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2088-2

In a thoughtful opening note, Long (Liplap's Wish) explains that she saw no point in creating a new Mother Goose collection ""unless I could find ways to make it unique."" She fulfills her mission in various ways: she includes a number of lesser-known rhymes, and she imaginatively softens what she calls ""the more frightening images."" Thus in ""Humpty Dumpty,"" the egg that cracks open when it falls off a wall hatches a duckling, and the ""baby"" rocking perilously in the treetop is a young bird who flies to safety as the bough breaks. Long also notes that in one case, ""The Old Woman in the Shoe,"" she has mitigated the suggestion of violence by changing the words; here her mother is a spider who doesn't spank her brood, but rather serves them broth and bread and ""kissed them all sweetly/ And put them to bed."" Working in her characteristic pen-and-watercolor style, Long conjures up winsome animal characters. She carefully suggests the texture of their fur or feathers, but she also kits them out in humorous garb (the cow who jumps over the moon wears a tutu and ballet shoes; nimble Jack is a frog in a tuxedo, and he leaps from one roof to another, over a lamppost lit by a candle). She links the rhymes inventively, particularly when she devises a single illustration to encompass two rhymes. For example, the jubilant frog who recites a relatively obscure verse that celebrates ""a rainy day/ In the month of May"" dances atop a lily pad; sitting near him, a mouse seeks shelter under other greenery and sings, ""Rain, rain, go away."" A robin's-egg blue ribbon that serves as a bookmark adds extra elegance to this handsome production. All ages. (Oct.)