Thursday, March 06, 2014

Govier Dissects Nursery Rhymes

In her new book, Half For You and Half For Me (Whitecap), Katherine Govier, one of Canada’s best loved novelists, takes a close look at a very different form: the nursery rhyme.

In Half For You and Half For Me: Best-Loved Nursery Rhymes and the Stories Behind Them, Govier takes a whimsical look at the meaning behind popular nursery rhymes.
Who was Wee Willie Winkie? 
Did live blackbirds really fly out of a pie? 
Was Humpty Dumpty a person -- or clumsy cannon?
What is the magic and what is the meaning of these rhymes that stay in our heads for a lifetime?
According to Govier, the answers are as fascinating as the rhymes themselves. In Half For You and Half For Me she breaks the codes of those well-loved rhymes to bring context to what can seem like outdated thoughts and actions.

For Govier, it’s all part of a deeply personal journey. “Ninety-five years ago,” she writes, “when my mother was born, her parents bought a beautiful book: The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose. They read it to her while she sat on their knees. When she was old enough for crayons and scissors, she expressed her affection all over the pages. She kept it until she grew up and became a mother. Thirty years passed and I had two children of my own. When we visited their grandparents, the Mother Goose came out, and we read together. Now my kids are grown up. Soon I may have grandchildren. This year she gave me her vintage Mother Goose. Antiquarians say the Jessie Willcox Smith collection is the best ever published, with its beautiful colour plates and lovely thick paper. A good condition copy sells for $750. But ours is falling apart, its spine like shredded wheat, its pages floating, cut up and crayoned upon.”

Whimsically illustrated by Sarah Clement, Half For You and Half For Me will be equally enjoyed by adults and children.

January Magazine’s 2000 interview with Govier is here.

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