|Mother Goose: A Scholarly Exploration|
Pathfinder: Mother Goose Reference Materials
PurposeThe purpose of this pathfinder is to guide children's literature students, scholars and educators in the discovery and use of resource materials about the history and scholarship of Mother Goose. This is not meant to be an exhaustive source covering all occurrences of information regarding the topic but rather a place to begin exploring what has been written on the significance of Mother Goose in the realm of children's literature.
IntroductionMother Goose nursery rhymes are some of the earliest and most widely published and distributed forms of children's poetry, which makes them an excellent place from which to begin a study of the history and development of children's literature and illustration in general. Much has been written about the historical context of the rhymes and about their place in the experience of childhood. The grouping of the resources in this pathfinder will follow from general to specific and will attempt to summarize the content, focus and reading level of each source in order to save the reader time in viewing irrelevant sources.
Print ResourcesGeneral Encyclopedias
Collier's Encyclopedia, 1995. This entry is a brief overview of the early history and tradition of Mother Goose, the character, and of the creation and subsequent earliest publication of the rhymes. It is very light on the variations of both the writings and illustrations and the extent of the publication over time. This serves as a good introduction to the topic for all readers, including some sample rhymes and uncredited illustrations.
The New Encyclopędia Britannica, 15th Edition, 1998. This concise, fact-filled short entry deals primarily with the origin of the character or Mother Goose and discusses the controversy over one actual person being the source of the rhymes.
Academic American Encyclopedia, 1996. This Mother Goose entry is brief and limited to primarily the first occurrences of the term and its association with fairy tales vs. nursery rhymes. A brief bibliography is included. There is mention of Mother Goose in the entries for Kate Greenaway, the poet and illustrator after whom the British equivalent of the Caldecott award is named, and Charles Perrault, the French poet credited with the first mention of the character in print.
The World Book Encyclopedia, 1994. As the World Book is written for a 6th grade audience, it is not surprising that it contains the most complete coverage of the general encyclopedias. There is a short entry under "Mother Goose," which deals with the origins of the character, and introduces alternate scholarly theories. It also briefly discusses the first publications of the rhymes and gives a short bibliography of additional resources. The entries for John Newbery and Charles Perrault also mention Mother Goose. The entry on "Nursery Rhymes" covers the topic of the rhymes as forms of poetry, discusses the various types, and includes a brief history, which mentions Mother Goose. The context of Mother Goose and nursery rhymes in the history and development of children's literature and illustration is covered well in the entry "Literature for Children," which was contributed by Zena Sutherland, Graduate Library School Professor at the University of Chicago and author of The Best in Children's Books and the textbook Children and Books, (see below).
Specialized Reference Works
Yankee Doodle's Literary Sampler of Prose, Poetry and Pictures. This book is a very useful compilation of photographic reproductions of items, which illustrate the history of children's literature, taken from the rare book collection of the Library of Congress. This format allows the original, old and rare forms of the publications to be examined and analyzed, without having to search out original copies. The collection includes reproductions of several unique and interesting versions of Mother Goose, such as Mother Goose in Hieroglyphics, which is actually in rebus, and a copy of one of the early published versions, Charles Perrault's Tales of Passed Times by Mother Goose, in a bi-lingual French and English edition. The samples included give a good idea of what early children's books looked like, particularly chapbooks, providing visual examples to better understanding the descriptions of early versions of Mother Goose found in other references.
Children's Literature in the Elementary School. Bearing a striking similarity in layout to Children and Books, this is also a comprehensive textbook about literature for children, but this book is specifically directed at those studying to become educators; although, students of library services might well benefit from its educational emphasis. It too, presents a history of the form, including a separate section on Mother Goose and the development of children's books in the 18th through 20th centuries; excellent bibliographies and resource lists, highlighted at the edge of the page for easy access; and examples of illustrations, many of them in color. At the end of each chapter, there are insets labeled "Learning Experiences" that give useful, practical exercises, which help to relate the information to the classroom. The later parts of the book give very specific and helpful direction into lesson planning and program development including the use of crafts and drama. The Appendices also include award winners and publishers, there is both a name and subject index and the endpapers include a useful list of "150 books to read aloud" arranged into six age groups from infants to 14 years.
The Annotated Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes Old and New, Arranged and Explained. Although older (1958), this book is a wealth of information on the history and theoretical meaning behind Mother Goose rhymes, and provides an extensive collection of rhymes, even the bawdy ones that are often banned. The bulk of the information is written as notes or annotations to the rhymes themselves, which makes the book difficult read, but the first chapter "All About Mother Goose" and the first pages of each chapter thereafter give a good overview and are easier to read. Throughout the book are copies of original, classic illustrations including sample woodcuts and illustrations by notable illustrators such as Caldecott, Greenaway, Rackham and Parrish.
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. Advertised as "The World's Most Complete PC Reference Library," this CD-ROM encyclopedia presents information, similar to the other encyclopedic sources, but in a new and entertaining way. Like other sources, Mother Goose is mentioned in a brief article entitled "Mother Goose" and longer entries for "Nursery Rhymes" and "Folklore." The largest entry is for "Children's Literature," which includes Mother Goose among other notable works written for children. The text is simply written and approachable by a wide audience. There are numerous links to other related articles, accessed by clicking on the keyword, indicated by a contrasting color. The hyperlink moves the viewer to the related article at the point that the subject is discussed, saving time in scanning the article for the pertinent information. The other unique feature of this electronic encyclopedia is the inclusion of animated graphics and audio clips. For example, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is sung by a child, and an interesting, interactive Children's Literature Collage is included to provide visual links to the information contained in the article. The links to Mother Goose related articles include Fairy Tales, Charles Perrault, Kate Greenaway, John Newbery and Isaiah Thomas and Mother Goose is mentioned, by title only, in an article about Ravel, for his 1910 orchestral suite entitled "Mother Goose," and in the article about the clown Joseph Grimaldi, whose comedy act was called "Harlequin and Mother Goose." Some of the articles include a link to a bibliography under the title "For Further Reading." The CD-ROM is not without its faults; one reference the search listed was to Georges Feydeau, which turned out to only be the word Mother near the word Goose.
School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University
Principal Investigator: Kay E. Vandergrift, Professor Emerita