cover image My Very First Mother Goose

My Very First Mother Goose

. Candlewick Press (MA), $22.99 (108pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-620-0

In this exuberant anthology, Opie and Wells choose the best of Mother Goose's ageless work and polish it to a brilliant shine: more than 60 rhymes appear here in four chapters of large, toddler-friendly type. And for those who thought there were no new feathers to be plucked from this goose, Wells's rich watercolor interpretations, simultaneously classic and contemporary, are a revelation. Readers will probably agree with Opie's prefatory remark: ""I firmly believe that Rosemary Wells is Mother Goose's second cousin and has inherited the family point of view."" Her cast of bushy bunnies (think Max and Ruby), classy cats and the occasional human interact with a combination of wit, charm and ingenuity: Humpty Dumpty, for example, is a soft-boiled egg, knocked accidentally-on-purpose to the floor by a boy bunny at the breakfast table. Also striking--and appropriate for the intended audience--are the numerous scenes of adults and children working and playing together. The cozy, well-appointed settings and loving gestures project a reassuring intimacy. Wells also makes full use of an extended trim size. She encircles rhymes with spots of art, as in the Hungarian-style cat violinists that surround the text of ""Hey diddle, diddle,"" or embellishes spreads with panels, identifying pig breeds in her depiction of ""Whose little pigs are these?"" and naming a few constellations alongside ""Star light, star bright."" Each rhyme begins with a sprightly decorated initial: a golden pear hangs from the ""I"" in ""I had a little nut tree."" Motifs recur subtly and purposefully, encouraging close inspection of the pages. A collaboration that both freshens and preserves the past, this volume deserves a prominent place not just in the nursery room but on the shelves of all who treasure illustrated books. Ages 2-up. (Sept.)