Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nursery Rhyme Comics


I’m always wary about short story collections. Most of themusually have some very good stuff, but you have to wade through some verymediocre (or often bad) stuff to get to it. In Nursery Rhyme Comics, FirstSecond has pulled together fifty different artists to interpret fifty differentnursery rhymes, and it’s a treat to see which direction the artists go with theirchosen rhyme.

Some of the contributors re-invent the rhymes inparticularly clever ways, and these are the most successful entries. Lucy Knisley has a funny take on There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, and James Sturm's Jack Be Nimble shows the consequences of jumping over candlesticks. Scott Campbells's Pop Goes the Weasel brings sense to a previously nonsensical rhyme while retaining its liveliness. I also particularly loved Stephanie Yue's Hickory Dickory Dock. My favorite, however, is the very first entry, Patrick McDonnell's The Donkey. It's just so darn cute and is a perfect example of how something a little extra can add a whole new dimension to a well-known rhyme.

Less successful are artists who merely illustrate the rhymeswithout adding anything new or interpreting them in a surprising way. Many of therhymes are silly or nonsensical, and I would have liked to see a few of theartists attempt to bring some kind of sense or meaning to these (although there is certainly something to be said for embracing silliness). Readers who are drawn to the collection more for theillustrations than the rhymes may be satisfied by these serviceable entries,but the book would have been better served by including more unique takes. Thesestraightforward illustrations may also be more illuminating for readers who arenot as familiar with the rhymes, in particular younger readers. Older readerswill require a bit more.

That said, the art is almost universally good, and that issaying something for a book with fifty different illustrators. There's no denying the artists know theirstuff. I personally would have preferred a little more creativity with the interpretations, but the art is a treat to pore over, particularly in full color.

Overall, Nursery Rhyme Comics is precisely what I wasexpecting – some real standouts, a few duds, and a lot that falls in themiddle. Even the stuff in the middle is worth a read/look, which speaks tothe high quality of the collection.

Review copy received from the publisher. Nursery Rhyme Comics is available now.

4 comments:

  1. I've been waiting for what you'd say about this one, and I think you've convinced me to pick it up ... when I can :)

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  2. This just came in for me today! Great timing :)

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  3. For a noir-ish take on nursery rhyme comics, you might be interested in Detective Blue by Steve Metzger with illustrations by Tedd Arnold. Lots of silly asides by characters such as Mary's lamb and little Jack Horner make the book a fun red.

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  4. Sorry....that should say "fun read"!

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