Friday, August 30, 2013

Did you know…?

Cover for "Father Goose: His Book" (1899) by L. Frank Baum.

…that L. Frank Baum was the original author of “Mother Goose?” He published MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE as his very first book, in 1897. The book contained short stories based on familiar nursery rhymes, such as "Old King Cole," "Humpty Dumpty" and "Little Miss Muffett." Believe it or not, it was also the first book illustrated by Maxfield Parrish.

To complete the Goose family, Baum later released FATHER GOOSE: HIS BOOK (1899). Unlike “Mother Goose’s” nursery rhymes, “Father Goose” was a book of pure nonsense verse. It became the top-selling children's book in 1899 and sold over 75,000 copies. W.W. Denslow’s simple but charming illustrations for “Father Goose” are a delightful addition to Baum’s silly verse.

Here’s a bit of Father Goose’s nonsense:

Old Mother Goose became quite new,
And joined a Women's Club,
She left poor Father Goose at home
To care for Sis and Bub.
They called for stories by the score,
And laughed and cried to hear
All of the queer and merry songs
That in this book appear.
When Mother Goose at last returned
For her there was no use;
The goslings much preferred to hear
The tales of FATHER GOOSE.

– L. Frank Baum (from “Father Goose: His Book”.)

I actually find quite a bit a social critique in this verse. Remember that, at the time, women were campaigning for the right to vote. In the above poem, it’s made clear that the Goose children, at least, preferred their father’s nonsense tales to their mother’s advocacy.  

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