• It’s the birth date of P. D. Eastman (1909–1986), Are You My Mother; Go, Dog. Go! ; and Elsie J. Oxenham (1880–1960) Goblin Island.
  • In 1792 Farmer’s Almanac, now known as Old Farmer’s Almanac, was first published. Read Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Layne Johnson.
  • Alfred Nobel patents dynamite in 1867. Read The Man Behind The Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin and Zak Pullen.

This week the holiday shopping season begins in earnest, and Saturday marks Small Business Saturday. Author Sherman Alexie has spearheaded a movement this year for independent bookstores, which he has named Indies First, by asking authors to help sell books in bookstores: “We book nerds will become booksellers.” And so many of us will help customers find the perfect book. I’ll be at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Our book of the day, David McPhail’s My Mother Goose, is just the kind of title I need for my time as a bookseller—a perfect offering for new parents, grandparents, and those hunting for a beautiful gift book for readers from birth to three years old. Mother Goose rhymes have been a childhood staple, but exciting new collections have been hard to come by in recent years. Many of the existing collections are so large that they can hardly be fit on a lap alongside a baby. My Mother Goose, however, not only includes a superb collection of rhymes but has also been designed with a parent and child in mind.

David McPhail began his children’s book career more than forty years ago. That means he produced his first books when children’s book artists preseparated their colors—rather than merely preparing artwork for the camera. Hence, he had to develop a strong black line, characterization, and illustrations filled with energy—all of which have become hallmarks of his art. Not only do his major characters like Jack and Jill or Little Miss Muffet know how to take center stage, but his unnamed animals sometimes steal the show as well.

Between the favorite nursery rhymes, McPhail has occasionally included two or three pages of illustrated concepts, including vehicles, numbers, and shapes. My favorite double-page spread shows Henry Bear demonstrating running, jumping, hopping, stretching, and other activities. It serves as both a vocabulary lesson and a delight for the eyes.

His animals and people are cozy and approachable. The square book fits easily in hands and leaves lots of room for fingers while holding. It can be read a page or two at a time or devoured as a whole. David McPhail manages to create such recognizable art that anyone who knows the rhymes will be able to pick out their favorites by the picture alone. But for babies who haven’t yet been given these gems as part of their literary heritage, the book presents the classics in an engaging, easily approachable way.

So celebrate Small Business Saturday this week at your favorite independent bookstore, along with the authors who will be there. And I hope you also support our best children’s book creators like David McPhail, who has devoted his life to books for children, when you choose presents for this holiday season.

Here’s a page from My Mother Goose:



Originally posted November 25, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Poetry


  1. suzi w. says:

    oooh, lovely! I haven’t really liked any of the Mother Goose collections besides the “original” and will be shopping for my nephew who will be born right around Christmas!! Thanks!!


  2. McCourt says:

    I love Mother Goose collections – we have several that I’ve saved from my childhood and my mother’s childhood. I even have one that was my grandmother’s. I’m looking forward to adding a more modern one to the collection.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like my children’s generation don’t read the nursery rhymes as much these days. I think it is a shame, because they are not only entertaining, but can be such important cultural references. At baby showers, a favorite game is ‘fill in the nursery rhymes’ and when I go to ones for young moms-to-be, I’m surprised how unfamiliar people are with the rhymes. Hopefully a collection like this one will help spark the genre’s popularity. Thanks for the recommendation! I will look for it at an indie store on Saturday – such a fun idea to have authors as booksellers!

  3. G. Perry says:

    Hot dignity!

    I’m always on the lookout for a new happy book, and children’s lit is where I look most often.

    I’m out to find it!

  4. Amy Cherrix says:

    Oh, Porter Square Books! Feels like home, doesn’t it? The best people and the best books in Boston.

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