Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster

The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster had me at hello.

How can you resist a story that begins with the line "Little Miss Muffet was bored"?

Little Miss Muffet was bored.

She was bored of being in the same old nursery rhyme and she'd had quite enough of that scary, little spider.

"What I need," she told herself, "is a change."

So off she went into the pages of the book to find another nursery rhyme to be in.

Miss Muffet tries joining the grand old Duke of York:

Oh, the grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them and Miss Muffet up
to the top of the hill
and he marched them down again.

Turns out Miss Muffet doesn't like all the marching. Jack and Jill turns out to be too painful. Climbing up and sliding down a clock is too embarrassing. "Ding, dong, bell" finds her wet and unhappy; "Hey diddle, diddle" finds the dish unhappy after Miss Muffet runs away with the spoon, resulting in several pages of RUCKUS that gains momentum as it makes its way through Four and Twenty Blackbirds, the Queen of Hearts and more.

In the end, Little Miss Muffet returns to her usual story, only to recall why she'd wanted the change to begin with.

Picture book writers interested in form will appreciate this one's use of a circular story arc – the character ends up where she started, slightly wiser than when she set out in the first place. In this case, as you can see above, the text does not begin with Miss Muffet's nursery rhyme, although it tells us enough about it to remind us what her story is. The book ends, however, with her own nursery rhyme, with no text following her rhyme. Because of this, it practically invites child listeners to demand a second reading, since the commentary on page one logically follows a reading or recitation of Miss Muffet's rhyme.

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