Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Inner City Mother Goose

I have never thought of poet Eve Merriam as a controversial writer. The poetry I had read of hers was childlike in its wonder and had an innocent playfulness about it. Imagine then, my surprise when I checked out a copy of Inner City Mother Goose from my local library.

The introduction by Nikki Giovanni let me know that this wasn’t going to be the cute, sweet poems by Merriam, but rather a form of social commentary on some rather obvious societal inequities.

In her own introduction to the 1982 edition (it was originally published in the late 60’s) Merriam recounts the book’s being banned in several places, including colleges. She hints at a thirteen letter word she used in one of her modern nursery rhyme retellings. Apparently that one caused a great deal of trouble.

As with most social satire this is not always a comfortable book to read. There are some poems that made me squirm a bit. But it also fits in with a new awakening in me for more social justice.

The illustrations by David Diaz fit the poetry extremely well. They had a reality that spoke through them, as did the poems.

While I might not recommend it for the classroom, necessarily, I would recommend this book to be read by those who teach in inner city schools and/or by those who are interested in social justice issues.

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