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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Three – 2016 Great Nursery Rhymes

31daysIt’s strange to think that Nursery Rhymes prove so difficult to round-up.  I’ve done my best.  After all, the art of the nursery rhyme is nothing to scoff at.  There’s a reason they’ve kicked around all these centuries.  Reading nursery rhymes to small children does wonders for brain development, to say nothing of the fact that they remain a cultural touchstone in our society.  Here then is a bit of a mix.  Some of these books play with the nursery rhyme format or redefine it.  Others play it straight.  I have no doubt, you’ll find something to love somewhere on this list.


2016 Nursery Rhymes

La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Ninos by Susan Middleton Elya, ill. Jana Martinez-Neal


Now my kids are full-throated lovers of Elya’s book Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos, which may well be regarded as one of the best firefighter books in the pantheon of firefighter picture book literature’s history.  In that book Elya effortlessly worked Spanish into the English text.  She does a fair amount of that here as well and it lends itself to lovely, bouncy rhythms and some great art.  I’m a fan.


Maybe Mother Goose by Esme Raji Codell, ill. Elisa Chavarri


A book with true readaloud potential, particularly to big groups.  It contains six nursery rhymes and then asks questions of the audience, allowing them the chance to say, “NOOOOOOO!!!!” in loud voices.  Any book that does that has my instant love.


My Very First Mother Goose by Rosemary Wells


I’m slipping some reprints in here as well AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME!!!  This is actually the 20th anniversary reprint of the Wells classic, and I’m all for it.  This wouldn’t be a worthy nursery rhyme list without at least one true all-encompassing collection, after all.


Miss Muffet, Or What Came After by Marilyn Singer, ill. David Litchfield


A truly ambitious outing.  Singer’s book is told in rhyme but is truly meant to be read or performed or read to older kids.  She slips a great many nursery rhyme characters into the tale, which is interesting because some of them are a bit lesser known.  For example, the poem Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! plays an important role.


One, Two, Three Mother Goose by Iona Opie, ill. Rosemary Wells


Another Rosemary Wells, this time in service to the great Iona Opie.  This book is in a board book format, and in my own personal experience I found some of the poems to work better than others with very young kids.  That said, isn’t that always the case with good nursery rhymes?


The People of the Town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me by Alan Marks


This would be the second book on this list that actually contains straight nursery rhymes.  Twenty-six of them, to be precise. Interestingly they are all people-centric in this collection.  An interesting choice.


Sing With Me! Action Songs Every Child Should Know by Naoko Stoop


Okay, true, these are action rhymes and not nursery rhymes per se.  But since the number of action rhyme books for kids released in a given year is even less than that of nursery rhymes, I’m going to let it slide on in.  After all, it received stellar professional reviews and is just really cool to look at.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books



About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Would you agree that the Rosemary Wells collection is the best Mother Goose collection of all time? (or at least in the top ten?)

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I’ll grant you the top ten but as for the best . . . so tricky. I know I’m supposed to say Arnold Lobel but I’m actually more inclined towards Tomie dePaola. We all have our weaknesses.