Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Sunday Brunch with Geese and Goops

Among other topics, today's Sunday Brunch introduces Mother Goose's family, reveals the sad fate of a famous book dedicatee, and asks if anyone has ever called you a "goop." (They have???)


Working with children's books, I probably cross paths with Mother Goose several times a week. This past Monday I was moving some volumes around at work and came across this one:

If it hadn't been Halloween that day, I probably wouldn't have thought a thing about it...but it WAS Halloween. And my immediate thought was: "You know, Mother Goose sure looks like a witch!"

I then pulled a few more Ma Goose books from the shelf and they also supported my theory. Hey, substitute a broomstick for that goose she's flying and you could be looking at a Halloween decoration:

This got me wondering about the real identity of Ms. Goose -- and why she's often pictured as an old crone with black peaked hat and billowing shawl. From a little bit of internet research, it appears that the origins of this character are shrouded in mystery. Some trace her back to the first millennium as "Bertha the goose-footed," the wife of King Robert II of France, who was said to enthrall children with her stories. Others say she was a seventeenth-century Bostonian, though that legend has been dismissed by most experts. We probably never will know the truth.

But back to her appearance.

Can anyone explain why this character, meant to represent a kindly children's storyteller, looks like a witch?

I'm assuming that her image was developed over the years by a number of different illustrators until it finally settled into the general "look" it has today. But was the intent to make her look like a witch (right down to those striped "Wicked Witch of the East Socks" in the last picture?) or were the illustrators merely utilizing the then-current "little old lady" fashions of their own historical era?

Anyone know?


We call her "Mother" Goose, but what ever happened to her kids? And where was her husband?

Actually, some of those answers can be found in children's books.

Though I doubt it was the first-ever reference to "Father Goose" in the panetheon of literature, the best-known character by this name was created by L. Frank Baum, who also originated the Wizard of Oz.

Baum was forty-one years old when he published his first book. MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE (1897) contained short stories based on a number of familiar nursery rhymes, including "Old King Cole," "Humpty Dumpty" and "Little Miss Muffett." It was also the first book illustrated by Maxfield Parrish.

The following year, Mr. Baum published BY THE CANDELABRA'S GLARE, a biography of Liberace. Just kidding. BY THE CANDELABRA'S GLARE was actually a collection of poetry, with the last section of the book devoted to children's verse.

A year later, Baum released FATHER GOOSE : HIS BOOK, a volume containing nothing but nonsense verse for kids. The introduction states:

There is a fascination in the combination of jingling verse and bright pictures that always appeals strongly to children. The ancient “Mother Goose Book” had these qualities, and for nearly two centuries the cadences of its rhymes have lingered in the memories of men and women who learned them in childhood. The author and illustrator of “Father Goose” have had no intent to imitate or parody the famous verse and pictures of “Mother Goose.” They own to having followed, in modern fashion, the plan of the book that pleased children ages ago—and still pleases them. These are newer jingles and pictures for children of to-day, and intended solely to supplement the nursery rhymes of our ancestors.

and is followed by this explanatory poem:

Old Mother Goose became quite new,
And joined a Women's Club,
She left poor Father Goose at home
To care for Sis and Bub.
They called for stories by the score,
And laughed and cried to hear
All of the queer and merry songs
That in this book appear.
When Mother Goose at last returned
For her there was no use;
The goslings much preferred to hear
The tales of FATHER GOOSE.

FATHER GOOSE : HIS BOOK became the top-selling children's book of 1899, selling over 75,000 copies. Some credit much of this success to the illustrations of W.W. Denslow.

In 1900, Baum and Denslow published THE SONGS OF FATHER GOOSE, which set some of the previous volume's verses to music.

1900 was also the year that THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was published. Baum and Denslow spent many more years writing the "Oz" series, only revisiting Father Goose once -- with a book of nonsense poetry for adults (FATHER GOOSE'S YEAR BOOK : QUAINT QUACKS AND FEATHERED SHAFTS FOR MATURE CHILDREN) in 1907.


According to Leonard Weisgard they did.

Three years after winning the 1948 Caldecott Medal for illustrating Margaret Wise Brown's THE LITTLE ISLAND, Harper published THE FAMILY MOTHER GOOSE, a collection of three small volumes (MOTHER GOOSE, FATHER GOOSE, and LITTLE GOOSE) that presents Mother Goose in her second most-famous visual incarnation. Instead of being being shown as an old woman; she's depicted as an actual goose in a dustcap.

Weisgard's three volumes were presented in a boxed set. A die-cut hole allowed one of the family members (here "Little Goose") to be seen, based on which book was first in the box.

The FATHER GOOSE volume (notice the fifties' style dad-hat on Father G) contains rhymes mostly featuring males, such as "Jack Sprat," "Three Men in a Tub,", "Old King Cole," and "Solomon Grundy."

LITTLE GOOSE features "Little Tommy Tucker," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Jack and Jill" and other kid-centric rhymes, while MOTHER GOOSE offers "Old Mother Hubbard," "Ladybug, Ladybug," and others.

Although the three volumes of THE FAMILY MOTHER GOOSE are easy enough to find individually in used bookstores, it's near impossible to find them together in their original fragile cardboard box.

...And so, like so many modern real-life families, the members of this book "family" have become separated over the years and are rarely seen together.


So you want to find information on Mother Goose in the online catalog, make a little typo, and what do you end up with?


I have to admit I was unfamiliar with the books GOOPS AND HOW TO BE THEM and MORE GOOPS AND HOW NOT TO BE THEM until I stumbled across them in our catalog.

Goops, whose heads can be drawn by anyone with a compass and protractor, were the creation of Gelett Burgess. The introduction to the first book, explains what they are:

Let me introduce a Race
Void of Beauty and of Grace,
Extraordinary Creatures
With a Pauciety of Features.
Though their Forms are fashioned ill,
They have Manners stranger still,
For in Rudeness, they're Precocious,
They're Atrocious, they're Ferocious!
Yet you'll learn, if you are Bright,
Politeness from the Impolite.
When you've finished with the Book,
At your Conduct take a Look;
Ask yourself, upon the Spot,
Are you Goop, or are you Not?
For, although it's Fun to See them
It is TERRIBLE to be them!

Subtitled "A Manual of Manners for Polite Infants Inculcating many Juvenile Virtues Both by Precept and Example with Ninety Drawings," GOOPS AND HOW TO BE THEM is filled with rhymes (some of which appeared in St. Nicholas Magazine) about misbehaving kids.

Here's one about table manners:

The Goops they lick their fingers,
And the Goops they like their knives;
They spill their broth on the tablecloth--
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating.
And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I'm glad that I
Am not a Goop -- are you?

and another titled "Picking and Stealing":

When you are fetching bread, I trust
You never nibble at the crust.

When in the kitchen, do you linger
And pinch with your finger?

Or do you peck the frosted cake?
Don't do it, please, for Mother's sake!

Originally published in 1900 and 1903, these volumes taught etiquette by letting kids laugh at (and probably recognize in themselves) exaggerated bad behavior.

So popular were THE GOOPS that by the time the first volume was republished in 1928, the dustjacket informed us:

"Don't be a goop," children still cry to one another, though the book first came out so long ago its first readers are long since grown up.

So that's where that word came from.

I was also surprised to learn that the original Goops books are still in print today.

There is also a small company called Goops Unlimited which sells modern Goops books and merchandise. It was created by a seventy-year-old grandmother and atwenty-year-old young man and has been in business for a decade.


Last Sunday I wrote a blog entry about Rachel Field, best known in children's book circles for writing HITTY : HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS. I ended my piece with this:

And I am still left wondering if we've ever had another creator with such wide-ranging talent: plays, poetry, children's fiction, adult novels, a Newbery, a Newbery Honor, a Caldecott text, two Pulitzer contenders -- plus she illustrated many of her own books!

I'm also wondering if anyone can answer three questions I have about this author:

Does anyone know where the original Hitty doll is? Is she owned by a library or museum?

Does anyone know what happened to her daughter Hannah?

Finally, I've read that Ms. Field was well-loved by her friends for designing personalized Christmas cards, and for giving them copies of her own books which, originally printed in black-and-white, she had hand illustrated with oolor paints. Has any collector ever come across any of these cards or books? Wouldn't it be a coup to find one?

I'm happy to say that I now have answers to these questions.

Blog reader Wendy informed me that Hitty now resides in the Stockbridge Library in Massachusetts. This sent me to the internet to find a picture of the real doll. If you Google "Hitty" with "Stockbridge," you will find quite a few...but they are all protected by so many copyright notices and warnings not to reproduce, that I dared not poach one for my blog today. However, I can provide links for you to see the original Hitty doll here and here.

I also did a little internet research and came across a wonderful article that Robin Clifford Wood wrote for the Bangor Daily News.

Get this: Robin Woods lives in Rachel Field's old house on Maine's Sutton Island.

Even better than that, Ms. Wood says in her article, "Relics and papers from her time in the house remained on shelves, in drawers and stored away in the attic."

Can you think of anything better than moving into a home once owned by a favorite writer -- and finding bits of their work still in residence?

Although usually too shy to contact writers, I sent Ms. Wood an e-mail. It turns out she is the midst of writing a book about Rachel Field, and has done a lot of research on the author's life.

I'll be first in line to buy that book!

Meanwhile, Robin was able to answer some of the questions I had.

I was very curious to learn how Rachel Field's relics and writings could be left in her Maine home for so many decades.

Robin explained, "The reason why Rachel's island house was so unchanged is twofold: First, there are no roads, and the house is a mile walk from the town pier, so when people move out they tend to leave things behind - especially furnishings, kitchenware, etc. Many of the contents actually pre-date Rachel. The second reason is that people generally go for only a few weeks a year, and the last decade or so before we bought it, it was virtually unused. No one was ever there long enough to care about cleaning out the attic!"

She also discussed the greeting cards and hand-illustrated books I asked about: "There are still in existence many original hand-painted cards, notes, and books made by Rachel for friends. Most of them, at this point, are no longer in private collections. Several college and university collections have Rachel Field stuff, plus many smaller institutions and libraries. I've been to archives all over the country - including in Hollywood. It's amazing what you find once you begin to dig, and I've been working on this for several years. She was a wonderfully talented woman, with an amazing spirit."

During my research this week, I had come across an obituary for Hannah Pederson, the adopted daughter of Rachel Field and her husband Arthur Pederson. According to, "Hannah married Gerald L. Tildsely on 30 January 1960" when she was barely twenty. They were divorced long before she died on the Fourth of July 1965. She was only twenty-five at the time.

I asked Robin Wood what happened.

It's a sad story.


It's one of the more indelible images in picture books.

The dedication page from PRAYER FOR A CHILD, written by Rachel Field and illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones, reprints the book's cover illustration of a little blonde girl kneeling in prayer and simply says, "For Hannah."

Rachel Field wrote the poem "Prayer for a Child" for Hannah in 1941, just a year before her own death from cancer surgery complications.

At the time, Hannah was only two years old.

The poem, which begins,

Bless this milk and bless this bread.
Bless this soft and waiting bed
Where I presently shall be
Wrapped in sweet security....

is a comforting list of items for which a young child would be grateful: her toys, her shoes, her "little painted chair."

The poem was published as a picture book in 1944, beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones. It would go on to win the Caldecott Award and remains in print nearly seventy years later.

One wonders if young Hannah read this book as she was growing up. Did it bring back happy memories for her

or did some rhymes -- such "Bless my Father and my Mother / And keep us close to one another" -- seem cruel in light of her mother's early death?

In answer to my question about Hannah's own early death, Robin Wood replied, "Although Rachel's husband, Arthur, tried to do his best for their daughter, he struggled with some depression himself. Hannah was cared for, but not tended to with any kind of rigorous direction. She married young, received an enormous inheritance, and went a bit wild. Her marriage ended after a year and she died of alcohol poisoning. Very sad."

Very sad indeed.

Rightly or wrongly, now whenever I look at the dedication page of PRAYER FOR A CHILD, I won't see the back of a girl snug in her pajamas and kneeling in gratitude but, instead, a sad young girl already turning away, turning away from life....


If you are a picture book or Caldecott collector, you may be curious about how to identify a first edition of PRAYER FOR A CHILD.

Here is the front of the dustjacket. It may or may not have a Caldecott seal on the front. The presence of this sticker does not necessarily mean your copy is not a first edition; it may be a first edition that was still in the warehouse at the time the award was received and the sticker was added before shipping to stores. However, the price on the front flap of the dustjacket must be $1.50, as that was the original price of the book.

Removing the jacket, the binding must be beige with blue-inked illustrations that look exactly like this:

The front and back endpapers must also be blue.

The title page must look exactly like this, with "1944" in the lower right-hand corner. If the date is missing or changed, it is not a first edition.

Finally, the copyright page must match this image. Do not worry about the "1941" copyright date; that refers to the date the poem itself was written and copyrighted. The top date of "1944" is the important one here And there must be no other dates (months or years) or printings listed on this page. If there are, this is not a first edition.

If your book matches all the above qualifications it may be worth $250-$300. If the dustjacket is missing, yet the book itself remains in very good condition, it should be somewhere between $50-$100. Add on $50-$100 if it's signed by illustrator Elizabeth Orton Jones. Walk away if it's signed by Rachel Field, as that would mean the book is a phony. Remember, she died in 1942, over two years before this book was published.

I wonder if there are any copies out there signed by Hannah Pederson herself....


Speaking of book collecting, if there's one thing we book collectors like it's ARCs!

ARCs are paperbound "advance reading copies" (AKA uncorrected proofs, galleys, pre-pubs) of books sent out to reviewers, bookstore owners, and others in the months before the actual book is published.

Sometimes these volumes are identical to the eventual published books.

Other times they are fairly different, and may include typos, printing errors, and even changes in the text.

Sometimes they are incomplete.

Often the dedication is not filled in yet:

Sometimes not all of the art is finished:

Someone recently asked me why the initials "TK" are used on these occasions. It seems fairly obvious that "TK" means "to come," yet we never see "TC" in such situations.

I did a little searching on the subject this week and learned the following from Wikipedia:

To Come is a printing and journalism reference abbreviated "TK." It is used to signify that additional material will be added at a later date.

TK is a combination of letters designed to catch the eye (it is also likely to be caught by computer spell-check programs, though the use of TK long predates the use of computers.) It may originally have come into use because very few words feature the letter combination of "t" followed by "k". The phrase "to come," by contrast, could very easily be mistaken as a deliberate part of the text, especially if read by an overworked editor late at night while on deadline.

So now we know the answer to TK, OK?


Earlier this week the New York Times released its list of the "Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011."

The honored titles:

A BALL FOR DAISY / Chris Raschka
BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON : SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI'S CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES / illustrated by Pamela Dalton ; text by Katherine Paterson
ICE / Arthur Geisert
I WANT MY HAT BACK / Jon Klassen
ME...JANE / Patrick McDonnell
MIGRANT / illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault ; text by Maxine Trottier
A NATION'S HOPE : THE STORY OF BOXING LEGEND JOE LOUIS / illustrated by Kadir Nelson ; text by Matt de le Pena
A NEW YEAR'S REUNION / illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang ; text by Yu Li-Qiong.

What do you think? Any major books missing (the new Sendak? Kadir Nelson's other book, HEART AND SOUL)? Any books that really shouldn't be there?


I imagine there are a few illustrators out there thinking, "My book didn't make the New York Times I guess I'm not going to win the Caldecott either!"

Fear not!

The NYT has been publishing their list for fifty-nine years now...yet only TWENTY of the titles on their lists have gone on to win the Caldecott Award.

That's pretty amazing when you consider that the TIMES usually honors ten illustrated books per year (some of the early years listed fewer than ten.)

Yet TWO THIRDS of the time, the Caldecott winner did not even find a place on the NYT's list of TEN BOOKS.

This either says a lot about the differences in criticism and evaluation between separate award committees or proves what a bounty of wonderful picture books are released each year.

In case you are wondering, these are the twenty Caldecott winners cited as NYT Best Illustrated Children's Books:

1954 / MADELINE’S RESCUSE / Ludwig Bemelmans
1961 / BABOUSHKA AND THE THREE KINGS / illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov; text by Ruth Robbins
1962 / ONCE A MOUSE... / Marcia Brown
1964 / WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE / Maurice Sendak
1977 ASHANTI TO ZULU: AFRICAN TRADITIONS / illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon ; text by Margaret Musgrove
1978 / NOAH'S ARK / Peter Spier
1980 / OX-CART MAN illustrated by Barbara Cooney ; text by Donald Hall
1982 / JUMANJI by Chris Van Allsburg
1985 / SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON / illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman; text by Margaret Hodges
1986 / THE POLAR EXPRESS / Chris Van Allsburg
1993 / MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE / Emily Arnold McCully
1997 / GOLEM / David Wisniewski
2005 / KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON / Kevin Henkes
2006 / THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW / illustrated by Chris Raschka; text by Norton Juster
2007 / FLOTSAM / David Wiesner
2008 / THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET / Brian Selznick
2010 / THE LION & THE MOUSE / Jerry Pinkney
2011 A SICK DAY FOR AMOS McGEE / illustrated by Erin E. Stead; text by Philip C. Stead

Just a few of the titles that the NYT didn't cite:

TIME OF WONDER by Robert McCloskey
THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats
...and David Wiesner's first two Caldecott winners

It's interesting to note, however, that in recent years they seem to have included the future Caldecott winner every year except for THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT by Beth Krommes, the 2009 awardee.


They've been weeding children's books again at work and one of my jobs involves withdrawing the records from our online catalog.

One book that crossed my desk was an early Andre Norton title, SWORDS ARE DRAWN. Published in 1944, it's a World War II action story that pre-dates Norton's reign as Queen of Science Fiction.

Opening up the book, I discovered that it was a first edition. It was also our only copy of this title. So I snagged it for our library's collection of rare and notable children's titles.

SWORDS ARE DRAWN was the first of three books Ms. Norton wrote about Lorens Van Norreys. It was followed by SWORD IN SHEATH (1949) and AT SWORDS' POINTS (1954.) I know these books are highly-valued by collectors, and fairly hard to find. And expensive.

But looking at this first book, I was struck by two things.

The introduction talks about the Cleveland Press World Friends Club, a penpal organization sponsored by that newspaper which was, during the time SWORDS ARE DRAWN was published, on hiatus because of World War II. The introduction states that Andre Norton first came to know the novel's Dutch protagonist, Lorens Van Norreys, because he was a member of the Cleveland Press World Friends Club.

I find this odd. The book does not state that "she based her fictional character Lorens on a real boy" but specifically seems to say that the protagonist of her book, Lorens Van Norreys, is a real person. Yet I've seen no other documentation that supports this.

Does anyone know?

Secondly, I was somewhat surprised by the book's adult, rather risque illustrations by an artist named Duncan Coburn. This one seemed like something you'd see in a "physique magazine" they might sell "under the counter" back in the forties:

Does anyone know anything about this artist? The only thing I could find was that he illustrated one other children's book -- COME, JACK : THE STORY OF A DOG by Robert W. McCulloch -- around the same time. After that, I see no references to him. Was he a casualty of the war? Did he move into another career? Did he start anonymously illustrating 1950s porn?

It's amazing what you find in books almost lost in weeding projects.

Like I always say, "It's better to read 'em than weed 'em."


Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. More TK so I hope you'll be back -- even if you are a Goop!

I know I am!


Brer said...

Old Mother Goose's clothes was the traditional costume of old ladies in England and Wales once upon a time; the fact that witches and Mother Goose are often shown in this type of clothing is simply because they are imagined as elderly women.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Thanks, Brer. I'm sure that's true...but still wonder why those clothes became the standard for Mother Goose and remain so to this day. You'd think she would change a bit over time, yet it hasn't happened in this case.

Bybee said...

You might be first in line to buy a biography of Rachel Field, but I'll be right behind you, impatiently stepping on your heels like a Goop.

That is very sad about Hannah.

Sean said...

I never warmed up to Mother Goose when I was a kid. I thought she looked like a witch. My grandmother gave me Blanche Fisher Wright's Real Mother Goose that you have pictured, as well as a vinyl record of some old lady (dressed like a witch on the record cover) reading Mother Goose stories. I never bothered with either one.

It is strange that her look has never been updated. The only variation I've seen is sometimes she's portrayed as an actual goose...but even then the goose is usually wearing the witch hat and pilgrim shoes.

That Duncan Coburn illustration is shocking.

Jeanne Kasten said...

I grew up with Prayer for a Child... it was the first book I read out loud (easily done at age 3 because I had memorized it!)
I'm not sure if my own 3 year old granddaughter is going to enjoy it or not, but I just put it in our book basket this week to find out.

Michael Allen said...

I had never thought of that, but Mother Goose does always seem to look like a witch. Thanks Brer for telling us why that might be!

Sad about Hannah! I have a daughter myself who is growing up and I often think about how her life is going to turn out. I do imagine her as that young innocent child on her knees in prayer. I just wish she would stay that way!

Hope Vestergaard said...

I am late to brunch because of traveling & conferencing and such, but what a treat to read this post this morning! The news about Hannah is sad, of course, but I loved The Goops to bits and read Hitty multiple times as a kid. Not too long ago I got a copy of Hitty for my niece and thought it would be fun to make her a doll, which lead me to that enormous industry and pictures of the original. I didn't unearth the info about Field's house, though. Exploring a long-gone favorite author's undisturbed house sounds like one of my very best literature-related dreams!

Elizabeth Blackwell said...

Impressive, your article had taken me to my childhood days of reading "The mother Goose" stories which fascinated me with many questions about Mother Goose, and I am sure you had answered some of the questions in my mind. I wish to thank you for these and also I wish to share with you about a new type of website named where the readers themselves are contributing their own stories, and I am sure children could have a good read in that website as their stories are real.