First Second has breathed new life into many of those classics with their new hardcover “Nursery Rhyme Comics.”
So not only do you get a book full of poetry, many I wasn’t familiar with from my youth, but each one is told by some of the coolest comic book and comic strip artists in the biz, including Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”), Patrick McDonnell (“Mutts”), Richard Thompson (“Cul de Sac”) and Gene Yang (“American Born Chinese”). There are also lots of up-and-comers.
The collection is a delight for all involved, kids and their geek parents. The art is great, and the rhymes are, well, classic, so you can’t go wrong with those. And they’re told in a fun, new way.
A few personal favorites: “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe,” who becomes a rockin’ grandma, a sweet “Hickory Dickory Dock” that seems influenced by “Mouse Guard,” an adorable “Three Little Kittens,” Mignola’s creepy “Solomon Grundy” and one of the new-to-me tales: “There Was an Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket.”
I also learned several new verses to “Old Mother Hubbard” and “London Bridge.”
What’s so great about it, is that each artist really puts their own stamp on it. Some are fairly literal (if fanciful) translations, such as “Little Miss Muffet.” Some add a layer to the story, such as putting a wolf in “This Little Piggy.” And others just run with it, like Yang’s sci-fi setting for “Pat a Cake.”
If you or anyone in your life has a new baby or one on the way, I can’t think of a better baby shower gift.