I got my first glimpse of First Second’s new Nursery Rhyme Comics at Comic-Con this summer. Several of its contributors attended a gathering for children’s book writers and artists I’d helped organize, and they had a hot-off-the-presses advance copy of the book to pass around. For me, it was love at first page-turn.
Comics creator and editor Chris Duffy was the guiding hand behind this absolute gem of a book. He got an incredible assortment of artists–including every member of the awesome Teen Comics Workshop I attended at SDCC–to contribute drawings to this gorgeous hardcover collection of Mother Goose rhymes. Each poem is its own little one- or two-page comic strip. The format is genius. In the hands of some of the finest illustrators in the business–people like Gene Luen Yang, Raina Telgemeier, David Macauley, Dave Roman, and living legend Jules Feiffer, for Pete’s sake!–the familiar rhymes take on a dynamic new life. I was, frankly, enchanted. There I was at this once-a-year shindig with my kidlit pals, sitting at a table with my nose in a book.
A few weeks later, to my delight, First Second sent me a review copy, and I got to share the fun with my kids. My older set outgrew nursery rhymes years ago, but even they were drawn in by the variety of art styles and the fresh, humorous takes on tried-and-true material. My three younger kids, ages seven, five, and two, are madly in love with the book. The five-year-old in particular likes to curl up with it, sounding out the words of familiar rhymes (like the nineteenth-century education reformer Charlotte Mason, I’m a big believer in using nursery rhymes as early reader texts) and studying the art.
We were especially excited to see one of our family’s favorite illustrators, Marc Rosenthal, in the book. His rhyme, “Yon Yonson,” was new to me and drew wild giggles from the five-year-old. Marc’s grin-filled, cartoony style is a perfect fit for the whimsy of the poem. “Jack and Jill” has never made more sense than in Jaime Hernandez’s sweet panels–it’s the first time I’ve seen an Old Dame Dob who looks like someone you’d actually run to when you were hurt.
Older kids will enjoy comparing the vastly different art styles and may find themselves inspired to try their own hand at sequential art. As for the nursery set: this collection will be my gift of choice for the seven-and-unders on our Christmas list this year.