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Nonsense Songs (Dodo Press)

Edward Lear (1812-1888) was an English artist, illustrator and writer known for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form which he popularised. At the age of 19 his first Illustrated work Family of Psittacidae; or, Parrots was published in 1830. His paintings were well received and he was favourably compared with Audubon. In 1846 Lear published A Book of Nonsense, a volume of limericks which went through three editions and helped popularise the form. In 1865 The History of the Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple was published, and in 1867 his most famous piece of nonsense, The Owl and the Pussycat, which he wrote for the children of his patron Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby. Many other works followed. His nonsense works are distinguished by a facility of verbal invention and a poet's delight in the sounds of words, both real and imaginary.
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K-Gr 6‘Willey's luminous mixed-media illustrations accompany four of Edward Lear's familiar nonsense poems: "The Owl and the Pussycat," "The Jumblies," "The Pobble Who Has No Toes," and "The Quangle Wangle's Hat." These poems are likely to be found in most collections, including Myra Cohn Livingston's How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear! (Holiday, 1982; o.p.) and The Pelican Chorus (HarperCollins, 1995) with Fred Marcellino's masterfully joyous illustrations. However, Willey's quirky style does seem suited to the poet's sort of nonsense. Her Pobble and Jumblies, like Lear's vocabulary, are both outlandish and believable. A book in tune with its subject matter.‘Kathleen Whalin, Greenwich Country Day School, CT

In this offbeat volume of four Lear verses, Willey (The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World) conjures a dream-realm of dark skies and vaguely unearthly animals. Asymmetrical windows of rich color imagery open on the white negative space of each page, next to unembellished text. "The Owl and the Pussycat," "The Jumblies" and "The Pobble Who Has No Toes" take place on a violet-green sea dotted with flecks of white foam and populated by ethereal starfish and minnows. Willey's folk style takes its cue from Chagall: the Pobble's Aunt Jobiska is an enigmatically smiling peasant woman in a purple babushka; the green-headed (but otherwise human-looking) Jumblies exude a magical calmness as they blithely sail their sieve; and the yellow calf in "The Quangle-Wangle's Hat" has a human's lidded eyes and rosy cheeks. The book seems incomplete without "The Dong with a Luminous Nose"; the doleful Dong is relegated to a mere mention in "Quangle Wangle," and Willey portrays the character as a white quail, not as the boyish type that Lear himself drew for the role. This departure notwithstanding, Willey, with her eerie interpretations, conveys the classic nonsense author's spirit of eccentricity. Ages 5-8. (Apr.) FYI: Willey's fans can also look forward to a companion volume to The Golden Hoard; the new book, The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of the World, also by Geraldine McCaughrean, illus. by Willey, is due from S&S/McElderry in April ($19.95 ISBN 0-689-81322-8, ages 10-up).

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