This treasury of fifty familiar and not-so-familiar nursery rhymes was illustrated and freshly interpreted by fifty well-known and not-so-well known comic book illustrators (with several familiar illustrators from outside the comic book realm) with copious colour and wild abandon to delight readers of all ages. The playful and inventive illustrations jump off the pages to form a cornucopia of illustrative styles, page layouts, fonts, and textures. These newly minted nursery rhymes were reworked in various genres from the classical historical fictive interpretations to the supernatural and speculative fiction realms.
Children’s book historian, author and critic Leonard S. Marcus expounded, in his introduction, on the appeal of the timeless rhymes for contemporary readers and offers directives on how to use the volume with various age groups. He also commended the illustrators on their “persuasive, and unpredictable, job of back-story elaboration” (page 2). I certainly brooked no argument with Marcus’ commentary; the book will be loved by readers and viewers of all ages and begs for repeated viewing to appreciate once again subtle, and not-so-subtle, nuances within the rhymes. Some visual retellings were more successful than others in constructing their elaborations for this reviewer but much of this was definitely dependent on personal taste. The vast majority of rhymes were executed in two page spreads, but several were extended into three pages and still others, complete on one page.
I delighted in Mike Mignola’s “Solomon Grundy” and his wooden figures that, with death, completed the cycle of life in a very fitting manner. Stephanie Yve’s “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” tickled me to no end, as did the visual play on oral storytelling and hero-making in Stan Sakai and Tom Luth’s “Hector Protector.” Cyril Pedrosa’s intertwining of the nursery tale of “Three Little Pigs” in his rendition of “This Little Piggy,” a symphony of action in twenty-one frames imposed on a large bright pink two-page spread also was a feast for the senses and imagination.
The illustrators were, for the most part, easily identified by their iconic and recognizable style of illustration. But the editors of this well organized volume did not take any chances, offering a small sample of each nursery rhyme along with their concise biographies in the contributors section at the end of the book. The editor’s note reminded the readers of the “tradition of mutation” (page 106) of traditional folklore , putting the reworking of the back-stories in historical perspective.