What is the magic and what is the meaning of the nursery rhymes that stay in our heads for a lifetime? The answers are here in Katherine Govier's new book, Half For You and Half For Me, whose enchanting introduction appears below.
Some rhymes describe historical events and some are just plain nonsense. Some of the oldest rhymes were never intended for the nursery, but for the street—where they came to life as popular judgments on events of the day. In Half For You and Half For Me, the author breaks the codes of these nursery rhymes in accessible, amusing explanations. She also adds some classic Canadiana, including a poem by star children's poet Dennis Lee.
95 years ago, when my mother was born, her parents bought a beautiful book: The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose. They read it to her while she sat on their knees. When she was old enough for crayons and scissors, she expressed her affection all over the pages. She kept it until she grew up and became a mother. I have a picture of Mum reading to me; I am about two, and I am entranced. I remember how she laughed. I loved the fact that words on a page could make her laugh.
30 years passed and I had two children of my own. When we visited their grandparents, the Mother Goose came out, and we read together. …
In our house, my husband, my seven-year-old daughter N and I are flying through the Harry Potter series, now nearly finished the sixth book, and reading each day at breakfast and again after dinner. The colourful characters (red-eyed Lord Voldemort, massive Hagrid in his hair suit) and the thrilling plotlines have us reading more than ever, so that books sometimes interfere with piano practice and dish-doing and hair-washing and bedtime.
One more page! Pleeeease, just one more page!
But long before we went Potty, stories—whether “from your mouth,” as N calls them, or from a book—played a prominent role in our family life. N’s dad is a wonderful storyteller, and often recounts his “Lost in the Woods” tale, about the year he was five and wandered into the forest with his little brother and was unable to find his way home. N’s eyes go wide as he tells of crossing an icy creek with his brother on his back; of braving the bitter wind and trudging through the bush, with its winter-night sounds of animals scurrying and owls hooting.
This homemade story often leads them to Owl Moon, Jane Yolen’s picture book about a father-daughter adventure. “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind. The trees sto …