Worth the Candle

Monster Goose Cover Image
By Judy Sierra, Jack E. Davis (Illustrator)
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ISBN: 9780152054175
Published: Voyager Paperbacks - September 1st, 2005

Neil Gaiman (in Coraline) taught us all about the Other Mother, but Judy Sierra deserves the same kind of popularity for teaching us about the Other Mother Goose. Hers is the charming old Monster Goose, who types out nursery rhymes on a laptop.

They are nursery rhymes perfectly suited for newborns in the Addams Family, or for your children, assuming your little darlings have embraced the tropes of Halloween. (Kindergarten would seem to the sweet spot.) The collection has a ghoul, a zombie, assorted movie monsters, a troll, a boggart and many more, and all of them seem to keep pets: bats, snakes, wharf rats, electric eels (who in Davis’s hilarious illustrations wear hardhats with miner’s lamps), maggots and bathtub piranhas.

Parody is easy, but good parody is hard—and Sierra’s is simply tops. A folklorist, she fully knows the brilliance of the original Mother Goose and respects their cadence, and sometimes even their intentions, in translating them to ghoulish foolery. Her version of the Mockingbird Song could be sung with as much pleasure to a colicky baby as the original. (And it would perhaps better mirror the mood of a weary parent: “Hush, little monster, don’t you whine / Papa’s gonna give you to Frankenstein.”) And if you’re going to transform Mary (of little lamb fame) into someone who disrupts class with less innocence, can it get any better than this?

Mary has a vampire bat
His fur was black as night
He followed her to school one day
And promised not to bite.
She brought him out for show-and-tell;
The teacher screamed and ran.
And school was canceled for a week,
Just as Mary planned.