I don’t really review a lot of children’s picture books on the blog, but when I got an email from the editor of Beyond the Pale, a fantasy and paranormal anthology I featured a while back, I couldn’t say no to his latest work, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes. When I read that this new picture book would have things like manticores, hydra, centaurs, and other interesting creatures, I was curious!
Read on to find out what other monsters and creatures of myth are inside Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes and read my thoughts on the book.
About the book
Enter an enchanted land of mythical creatures where manticores reign and ogres roar—a land of mystery and fright. A unique twist on traditional rhymes of everyone’s youth, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes presents a more sinister approach to these childhood classics, and yet the sing-song nature of the poems renders them playful and jovial at the same time. Little Witch Muffet is not frightened by a silly, little spider; she adds him to her stew!
Rotten zombies, giants, dwarves, and goblins mingle with werewolves, centaurs, and fauns. Follow along the skeleton stepping stones, scale up a palisade, claw at the window of a tasty child and bake him into a pumpkin shell. Monsters cook up delicious elvish pie, too! Every kid who has an eensy weensy bit of sense wants a pet with feathers white as snow, who flies like an eagle and bleats like a goat—a hippogriff, of course!
Six forest sprites with four times as many pixies escape from a loaf of bread atop the elaborate table of the fey queen; her feast has flown away! If you enjoy mischief and have a penchant for the morbidly hilarious, the Herzs’ rhymes will satisfy your mythological curiosities.
Larson’s illustrations give new life to these ancient figures, and her artistic style employs the bold lines and colorful movement of an action-packed comic book. The author also includes a “bestiary” with information about the book’s legendary creatures, which hail from Scotland, Germany, Italy, Persia, Haiti, and Scandinavia.
My thoughts on Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes
Off the bat, I was drawn to the awesome illustrations in this book. I just love it when picture books are just chock-full of vivid, colorful and interesting images. Of course, it also helps that the illustrations are interesting versions of characters and creatures from familiar children’s rhymes and from mythology.
As you can read from the summary, the book is full of darker versions of nursery rhymes. For example, in this book, Little Miss Muffet is a witch, Wee Willie Winkie is a werewolf, and instead of Little Piggies we have a hydra. I’m a big fantasy fan so I really enjoyed the ‘new’ rhymes. I like the creativity that went into them and into the illustrations as well.
I asked the author about how they came up with the ‘darker versions’ of the rhymes and he shared that he was taking a picture book writing class and had an assignment to develop a manuscript. He said,
I am a huge fantasy and science fiction fan. So, my thought was to take a familiar story, and inject fantasy creatures into it, aka a fractured fairy tale. Normally, I don’t do rhyme (executing rhyme effectively in a picture book is HARD). But in this case, rhyme helped me in that I had to substitute creature names with the same number of syllables (and gender) as those of the original characters. Thus was Little Miss Muffet transformed into the sassier Little Witch Muffet.
By the way, the book also includes a Bestiary or a compilation of the beasts or creatures mentioned in the book, with a short description of each, and I thought that was a really cool thing to have in a picture book.
Overall, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes is simply a fun book, especially for fantasy lovers. I think the book is a great way to introduce little kids to the world of fantasy!
Note: I received a review copy of this book from the author. All opinions and views expressed here are my own.
About the author
Henry Herz received a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering and operations research from Cornell University, master of science in operations research from George Washington University, and master of arts in political science from Georgetown University, none of which help him write children’s books. His love for fantasy began when he read Where the Wild Things Are (repeatedly) as a child (and as an adult) and was sealed by The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons. He enjoys painting Warhammer miniatures, moderating science fiction/fantasy literature panels at conventions, eating Boston cream pie, and writing children’s books with his sons, Josh and Harrison. Their first book was featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, CNN, and the Warner Brothers’ website for the Hobbit movie. The Herz writing trio lives in San Diego, California.
About the illustrator
Abigail Larson’s whimsical illustrations have been shown throughout the United States, from New York to Los Angeles, as well as internationally in Paris and London. Larson creates digital art for children’s books and commissioned projects. Some of her interests include Halloween, witchcraft, children’s literature, skeletons, and monsters.