There’s a lot of cool stuff at New York ComicCon this year, especially for kids. Of the sea of comics and graphic novels being picked through by cosplayers, one title stood out more than all of the others. It’s Nursery Rhyme Comics from First Second Books. That’s right, I said nursery rhymes. “Hey, Diddle, Diddle” and “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” and all that.
You know how most nursery rhymes make no sense? Like, maybe they did once upon a time, but not at all to the modern reader? Well if you put a nursery rhyme in the hands of a visual storyteller like the 50 amazing artists represented in this book, something special happens. They provide new and interesting contexts where the rhymes actually seem to make sense.
One of the best examples is “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” by Lucy Knisley. The old woman is a tattooed aging rocker type. A whole bunch of parents drop off their kids at her Rock & Roll Babysitting until “She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” “She gave them some broth without any bread…” because the bread was moldy but the broth was plentiful. “…Then whipped them all soundly…” In a stroke of genius, this panel is the kids rocking out in a band called The Whips. “…And put them to bed.” The kids all fall asleep on the couch, tired from all that rocking. It’s edgy and kid-appropriate at the same time.
I also love this rendition of “Rock-a-Bye Baby” by Tao Nyeu. A wolf is after the sheep asleep in the tree, creating wind and breaking the bough with a chainsaw. When the cradle falls, it falls on the wolf’s head, during which time the sheep is able to defend himself with the chainsaw. Hilarious. (Note: if any of this is making you uncomfortable about showing your kids, this book might not be for you. That’s cool. Give it time.)
If you pick up but one comic book for your family, let it be this epic one. And, if you’re reading this in time, I’ll be speaking on the Geeky Parenting panel on Sunday at 11:00. Hope to see you there!