First Christmas, First Book – and it was Mother Goose

Contrary to popular belief, I am not older than Mother Goose.

In fact, there’s a fair amount of debate about who, if anyone, Mother Goose was.  Some say “Mother Goose” was a lady named Mary Goose. Perhaps. There’s a gravestone in Boston from the 1690s that tourists like to visit. Looking way back, we find the name in Charles Perrault’s 1695 book, subtitled “Tales of my Mother Goose.” It was translated into English in 1729. However, the primary association of Mother Goose and nursery rhymes probably began with  John Newbery’s 1791 collection called Mother Goose’s Melody

All that happened many years before my time.

Since then, a lot of authors and artists have produce collections. One of my gifts on my first Christmas was Berta and Elmer Hader’s Picture Book of Mother Goose published by Howard-McCann in 1930. (Also before I was born.)

Berta and Elmer Hader were a prolific husband and wife team, producing many books beginning in the 1920s.  They won the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1949 for The Big Snow. They died in the 1970s, having left a wonderful legacy of books and rich illustrations such as the one shown here.

I liked picture books when I was young because I could create my own stories for the pictures with my imagination when nobody was around to read to me.  Years later, my daughter would enjoy illustrated books for the same reason, though when she was a child, the books by Richard Scarry were probably more popular than Mother Goose.

Later, I had quite a few shelves of books, many of them the Little Golden Books with stories like “The Little Red Hen.” While I like magical realism and fantasy now, my reading goes back to “Old Mother Goose,” “Hickory, Dickory Dock,” and “Polly, Put the Kettle On.” I’m sure my parents made use of the lullabys in my Mother Goose book, though I have no memory of it. Or, perhaps they pointed out all the drawings of sleeping children in the book and hoped for the best.

I’m not sure why or how this old book is still on my shelf rather than being packed away. Nostalgia, perhaps.


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