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by Cay Geisler

Crews, Nina. 2004. NEIGHBORHOOD MOTHER GOOSE. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060515732

Nina Crew's new adaptation of Mother Goose rhymes is stunningly original. Instead of pastels or even primary colored illustrations, she uses digitally enhanced photographs in vivid color that extend to the very edges of the pages. The book is peopled with a group of multiethnic children that move from verse to verse through the pages. Children will recognize the children as they continue reading through the rhymes. The result is a Mother Goose collection that focuses on real children in the real world.

Because the photographs ground the rhymes in reality, the verses take on new relevance. Most Mother Goose rhymes are featured in whimsical pastels that pay homage to their English roots. Nina Crew's photographs are taken in and around her Brooklyn neighborhood featuring happy children playing in the modern world. She digitally enhances most of the pictures to add whimsy to the lushly realistic photos. In "Hey Diddle Diddle!" there is a cat holding a violin, a giant plate and spoon towering over a fence, and an actual cow jumping over the moon. In "To Market, to Market" she features a child walking down the street in front of stores holding a brown paper bag with a real pig in it. Often she shrinks the size of the children and places them with actual-sized objects, as in "Peter Piper" and in "There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe."

The Neighborhood Mother Goose includes many old favorite nursery rhymes, but also many less familiar, such as "Girls and Boys, come out to play" and "One Two, / Whatever you do." Older children may be surprised by the inclusion of verses that are unfamiliar to them, but younger children will be open to learning these new ones, as the rhymes seem especially relevant as presented here with children just like them. Grownups, on the other hand, may be taken aback by their reactions to this innovative treatment of an old classic.

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