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Poetry

MOTHER GOOSE OF PUDDING LANE by Chris Rashka Illustrated by Vladimirt Radunsky

I didn’t just dislike this book; it made me angry. Let me tell you why.

I picked Mother Goose of Pudding Lane up from the New Picture Books shelf on a recent library run. I glanced at the first page where the author references a woman named Elizabeth Foster (b.1692 in Boston, MA). The book says she married Isaac Goose, who already had 10 children, and they had 4 more together. The text tells us that she was literally a mother and a Goose, and she probably told stories and rhymes to her children. The introduction finishes by saying:

Here is the story of Mother Goose of Pudding Lane. Now you can decide who is the real Mother Goose.

That was as far as I read in the library. When I sat down to read the entire book I was anticipating (based on the first pages and their accompanying invitation to determine the truth) that the book would tell me about Elizabeth Goose and perhaps the reasons why someone might consider her as the original Mother Goose. I found the premise intriguing.

Unfortunately what I found in the  40 pages following the two I read in the library was a forgettable original poem about Elizabeth Goose which told me her husband considered her a “poetess,” she provided counsel for her children and grew old with her husband. The final quatrain asserts that

Mother Goose can still be heard today.

A quatrain of this original poem is printed on every 1-2 pages. The rest of the page space is taken up with reprints of traditional Mother Goose nursery rhymes. I was confused at the end of the book. There was not one shred of evidence–circumstantial or otherwise–presented that would allow me (the reader) to form any sort of opinion about whether or not Elizabeth Goose of Boston, MA had anything to do with the Mother Goose of lore.

Annoyed, I got on the internet to see whether or not Elizabeth Goose actually existed and/or had anything to do with the Mother Goose myth. It took me less than 15 minutes to discover Elizabeth Goose did, indeed, exist but no literary scholar anywhere seriously considers her to be a possible original ‘Mother Goose.’ The term ‘Mother Goose’ was commonly used in France by the mid-17th century to refer to a woman who captivated children with wonderful stories. Charles Perrault published  Contes de ma mere l’oye (Tales from my Mother Goose) in 1697–when Eliazbeth FOSTER would have been 5 years old.

Clearly there was never any possibility that Elizabeth Goose (Raschka’s Mother Goose Of Pudding Lane) was ever considered to be the original Mother Goose. This fact means that this entire book is, at best, based on ridiculously specious reasoning or, at worst, intentionally misleading its readers. The authors have set up an artificial question as the basis for their book: whether or not Elizabeth Goose of Boston, MA is the ‘real’ Mother Goose is NOT open to interpretation. It has already been factually disproved.

I find this kind of manipulation and duplicity by an author to be disrespectful and wrong–particularly when it is targeted at young readers who have not yet learned to apply critical thinking techniques to assertions they read in print.

If you’re looking for a good Mother Goose collection, my favorite has always been Tomie de Paola’s Mother Goose.

 

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