Edited by Chris Duffy
Artists (deep breath): Nick Abadzis; Andrew Arnold; Kate Beaton; Vera Brosgol; Nick Bruel; Scott Campbell; Lilli Carre; Roz Chast; JP Coovert; Jordan Crane; Rebecca Dart; Eleanor Davis; Vanessa Davis; Theo Ellsworth; Matt Forsythe; Jules Feiffer; Bob Flynn; Alexis Frederick-Frost; Ben Hatke; Gilbert Hernandez; Jaime Hernandez; Lucy Knisley; David Macaulay; Mark Martin; Patrick McDonnell; Mike Mignola; Tony Millionaire; Tao Nyeu; George O’Connor; Mo Oh; Eric Orchard; Laura Park; Cyril Pedrosa; Lark Pien; Aaron Renier; Dave Roman; Marc Rosenthal; Stan Sakai; Richard Sala; Mark Siegel; James Sturm; Raina Telgemeier; Craig Thompson; Richard Thompson; Sara Varon; Jen Wang; Drew Weing; Gahan Wilson; Gene Luen Yang; Stephanie Yue.
Nursery Rhyme Comics is something of an extension of the work done several years ago by Raw/ Little Lit; taking alt-comix finest and letting them loose on children’s stories. Sure, with Little Lit it was mostly original work, but its theme, mixing alt-comix artists and children’s comics, is the thing that Nursery Rhyme Comics takes on, and delivers superbly.
As you might expect, it’s 50 comic artists illustrating 50 nursery rhymes. Most you’ll know, a few might be a little America-centric, but it matters not one whit, all of them are simple things; 1-3 pages long, most of them just a double page spread.
Lots of styles on show here, some from familiar, established names, some from up and coming artists. And each of the fifty artists brings something different to the page. You may not like them all, you’re bound to have your favourites, but so many of them do what they do so very well.
It’s interesting though to see how many comic artists have adjusted their work for the adaptations. A fair number settle on simple illustration, or merely use captions to recount the rhyme. It’s strangely rare to actually see something that feels like a comic, and only maybe half or less had that traditional comic feel, speech bubbles and all. In the end it’s immaterial though, comics now means so many different things to so many people and these are most certainly comics.
Rarest of all, surprisingly so, are the few, like this from James Sturm below that choose to play around slightly with the rhyme itself…
(James Sturm’s take on Jack Be Nimble, from Nursery Rhyme Comics, published by First Second.)
In truth, there’s little to really review here. You and I both know that your enjoyment of this one stands or falls on where you stand on the concept of the piece.
If you fancy the idea of Nursery Rhyme Comics you’ll be simply swayed by the very idea and the list of artists involved. The artwork included here with the review will merely be the icing on the cake.
However, if you’re the sort who thinks this is simply another chance for comic reading literati to get together and backslap a little, praising all these alt-comix folk for doing something so child-friendly, then this is similarly going to simply reinforce your thoughts.
You really don’t need to ask where I stand on it. As a comics fan it’s nice to see the work inside here. I mean, just look… Jaime Hernandez….
(Jaime Hernandez just as beautiful as usual. From Nursery Rhyme Comics, published by First Second.)
Although I’ve got to admit it’s not something I’d have bought to sit on my shelf. Good to look at perhaps, but not to own.
But if this would have been released when Molly was younger, it would have certainly found its way onto her shelf and I imagine it would have been a particular favourite at bedtimes. Every child should really have a nursery rhyme collection, and this is a fine, fine example of them, with a collection of great art to make it something special.
Hopefully it’s going to be a hit in the school library as well, which is where this review copy will find its way in a few days time. It’s a great tool for emerging readers, something really substantial that makes them feel rather more grown up, yet full of easy to read, familiar words for them to enjoy.
All that’s left for me to do is leave you with a couple of my favourites, I could have picked many, many more. And no doubt you, and hopefully whatever child is lucky enough to get their hands on this will have your and their own…..
(Raina Telgemeier – of the staggeringly great, perennial library favourite – and STILL not available from Scholastic UK graphic novel Smile)
(Vera Brosgol, whose wonderful Anya’s Ghost came out earlier this year)
(Finally, here’s Cyril Pedrosa’s This Little Piggy. A completely new name for me, but loving his colours and the wonderfully exaggerated wolf. And a quick look on the First Second website shows me there’s a whole graphic novel of his I really must get around to – Three Shadows)