January 12, 2010

Who Killed Cock Robin? Who Put It In My First Nursery Book?

themerson_my_first.jpg

The first thing to know is that My First Nursery Book, with illustrations by the Polish/British avant-garde artist and publisher Franciszka Themerson, has just been reissued in its original 1947 form, and you and I and everyone should buy it at Amazon right now. OK.

And then you should read the lone review on Amazon and marvel at the utter, wrong, impossibility of giving this book three stars. It gets five or one, but not three. But I'm willing to entertain the argument, if only for entertainment's sake.

Though the book features Themerson's beautiful illustrations throughout and contains three classic nursery stories that apparently don't raise eyebrows, the book leads off with "Who Killed Cock Robin?"

themerson_my_first2.jpg

And I guess this rhyme's venerable history is not enough to persuade our reviewer that of course a sing-songy poem about shooting a bird and catching its blood in a dish should be the first entry in a First Nursery Book.

But take a look at the viciousness of the Three Little Pigs. Or the life-or-death drama of The Gingerbread Man. And excuse me, but Goldilocks is a freakin' criminal who should be hauled into Bear Court. And besides, after what the Themersons put up with fleeing and fighting across Poland and France during the war, plus all the incredible indie publishing they did in London after, I think their editorial choices deserve to be considered in context. Five stars.

My First Nursery Book by Franciszka Themerson [amazon via curious pages]
Gaberbocchus Press exhibition at the V&A [vam.ac.uk]

I had a feeling I'd already posted about Bertrand Russell's Good Citizen's Alphabet, which Themerson illustrated and published.

2 Comments

Hey agree with your 1 star or 5 stars idea. I hate when someone tells me that something is "pretty good". What that really means is that it was NOT GOOD, that they were NOT impressed and would not reccomend it but are not so much that they would say they hated it. I will buy your book and rate it : )

-SparkDad

One of those first books and all those rhimes we remember

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