We were exposed to some profound imagery in the stories we were told as children. A gifted storyteller would realize that and would be insightful in looking at some of those stories we were exposed too. Hence novelist Katherine Govier’s book Half For You and Half For Me is a wonderful read.
Has lost her sheep
And can’t tell where to find them
Leave them alone
And they’ll come home
Wagging their tails behind them.
Description (excerpt) Page 25
“Bo-peep” meant “peek-a-boo.” In medival times if you were convicted of a crime you might have to “play bo pepe throwe a pillory”-be put in the pillory, or stocks, with your head and arms peeping out.
How the shepherdess got involved is anyone’s guess.
There is a certain grace that Govier adds to each of the nursery rhymes she looks at. Not only can one read the rhyme, (and read the rhyme to someone special) but also get a new understanding of the of the well-known verse.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Could not put Humpty together again.
We imagine Humpty Dumpty as an egg, probably because his reassembly is hopeless. I other languages his a drunk or a dumpy person – Boule Boule in French and Humpelken Pumpelken in German
Likely he was not a person at all, but a cannon set on a wall around the castle town of Colchester by royalists to protect it during a siege. When the wall collapsed and the cannon fell down, the royalists – “all the King’s men” – could not put it back up. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward amended the phrase to title their book All the President’s Men, about the Watergate scandal. Might does not always prevail. something delicate may be broken that no power can patch up.
Govier has gone beyond the Mother Goose rhymes and looked at lesser known works and added them to this collection. She has put a great deal of thought and research into this work.
Twist me, and turn me, and show me
I looked in the water, and saw [myself]
This is from The Brownies and Other Tales, by Juliana Horatia Ewing. She lived in New Brunswick for four years and so we count her as Canadian.
What is a Brownie? Before it was a junior Girl Guide. it was “a useful little fellow, something like a little man.” How do you find one? Go to the north side of the lake when the moon is shining and turn yourself round three times, saying this charm. When the child looks in the water, he either says his name, “Jimmie!” or “myself!”
Clement has done an excellent job with illustration the images of the book. There are filled with tiny details for both young and old minds to ponder while reading the excellent descriptions that Govier wrote about.
Curly locks, curly locks, wilt thou be mine?
Thou shall’t not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine,
But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam
And feed upon strawberries, sugar and cream!
A wooing song that shows curly hair was something to be desired and admired. Until recently. This constituted a vision of marital bliss: to work sitting down, “sew a fine seam” and eat lady-like sweets as a woman of leisure.
But last but not least is the element of love and caring, that exists in this book. It was created with deep reverence that Govier explains in the introduction.
Page 2 Reading With Mum
Ninety-five years ago, 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 scissor, she expressed her affection all over the pages. She kept it until she grew up and became a mother. I have a picture of Mum reading to me; I am about two, and I am entranced. I remember how she laughed. I loved the fact that words on a page could make her laugh.
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. Any my beautiful young mother has become one of those bent old women we saw in the pictures.
Half For You and Half For Me by Katherine Govier and illustrated by Sarah Clement is a wonderful exploration of nursery rhymes through the ages. It is a well crafted book that will no doubt be a favourite on the shelves of many hearts both young and old.