Mad Nursery Rhymes

The Mad Man
There was a man, he went mad,
He jumped into a paper bag;
The paper bag was too narrow,
He jumped into a wheelbarrow;
The wheelbarrow took on fire,
He jumped into a cow byre;
The cow byre was too nasty,
He jumped into an apple pasty;
The apple pasty was too sweet,
He jumped into Chester-le-Street;
Chester-le-Street was full of stones,
He fell down and broke his bones.

Raymond Brigg’s Mother Goose Treasury won the Kate Greenaway Award in 1966. Despite its classic status, it has been out of print for ages which is incredibly annoying as it meant I had to search for it on-line through second-hand bookshops to buy a slightly foxed copy of it for my new step-grandson, Louis. (Two weeks old and he’s grown into a name at last).

My kids owned a dozen or more nursery rhyme collections when they were growing up but Raymond Brigg’s version was loved-to-death. Our copy is too battered to hand on to the next generation, with its cover sticky-taped back in place and the pages completely dog-eared. It contains over 400 rhymes, all of the traditional favourites as well as a solid collection of strange and obscure ones. When I asked my 20-year old son, Elwyn, about his favourite nursery rhyme, he immediately recited ‘The Mad Man’ from memory. It’s strange how the rhythms and crazy imagery of nursery rhymes stay with us for a lifetime. I suspect they are the best fuel for imaginative play and language development as well as a magical pathway into books.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never completely disappears.”

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