The People of the Town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me
Alan Marks began his career illustrating for magazines and newspapers in England. His first children's book Storm, written by Kevin Crossley Holland, won the Carnegie Medal. Alan now illustrates a wide variety of subjects, from nursery rhymes to war poetry.
Read more about Alan.
Over the course of one day, readers are introduced to some familiar and not-so-familiar nursery rhyme characters. The day starts with "Gregory Griggs" and his 27 wigs (though he is pictured in only one) and ends with a princess going "Rock-a-Bye, Baby" in a green cradle. The titles of the 26 rhymes can only be found, miserly enough, in the table of contents. The rhymes themselves range from four-line snippets to a five-stanza version of "Little Bo-Peep." But though the concept is clever, the placement of the poems can be a puzzle, as the progression from sunrise to sunset is not always clear. Instead of starting off this slim collection with the "Old Man in Leather" rising on a "misty, moisty morning," Marks uses the aforementioned rhyme about wigs. As the day winds down, the author inexplicably sandwiches "Georgie Porgie" between "Wee Willie Winkie" and "Honest John Boldero" and his candles. The dreamy pencil, ink, and watercolor drawings nostalgically portray costumes and people (mostly, though not universally, white) from approximately the 18th century to the early 20th. Marks' sense of whimsy is clear in the maniacal stare of a cat giving tiny "Jerry Hall" a ride past a rat with dinner on its mind, and readers can empathize with "Little Tommy Tucker" standing on a wooden crate with the absolute rigidity of stage fright. Ultimately, the uneven presentation makes this Mother Goose collection a supplemental purchase.
Marks gathers 26 people-centric nursery rhymes, including well-known figures like Jack and Jill, Doctor Foster, and Little Bo-Peep. Expressive, slightly caricatured ink-and-watercolor illustrations match the old-fashioned air of the enduring rhymes, but Marks incorporates some fun details, too. The "grand old Duke of York" is a boy riding a rocking horse, Peter Piper is a jester balancing a pumpkin on his nose (one that looks to be home to Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater's wife), and the modern-looking children on a city sidewalk seem almost aghast that nightgown-clad Wee Willie Winkie thinks that they ought to be in bed by eight o'clock.
School Library Journal
Twenty-six nursery rhymes spread out over the course of a day (noted only in the change in endpapers from pale morning light in the beginning to the periwinkle blue haze of dusk and its early stars) introduce a cast of mostly white characters familiar and new to young readers. Ranging widely in tone and length (from the four-lined "A Crooked Man" to all five verses of "Little Bo-Peep"), the rhymes explore the loose theme of "nursery rhyme friends for you and me." The illustrations are the strongest element of this title, with delicate detail and a hazy hint of time-gone-by found in the ink, pencil, and watercolor washes. Characters from eras past appear, as evidenced by the clothing and housing details. A few of the illustrations feature people of color, but they are in the minority here. The book is paginated, and a "The People You'll Meet" table of contents allows readers to flip back and forth to find the title of each rhyme. A beautifully illustrated book for larger library collections in need of expanding their nursery rhyme selections.
ISBN: 978-1-60734-967-9 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-968-6 PDF
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Page count: 40
9 1/2 x 10 1/2