The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense

Illustrator: Julia Rothman

Binding: Hardcover

Imprint: Candlewick Press

Age 7+

Humorous Stories Picture Books

The classic nursery rhymes we know and love—upside-down, backward, in gibberish, and fresh out of bounds—as only Jon Scieszka could stage them

Mother knows best, but sometimes a little nonsense wins the day. Inspired by Dadaism’s rejection of reason and rational thinking, and in cahoots with Blanche Fisher Wright’s The Real Mother Goose, this anthology of absurdity unravels the fabric of classic nursery rhymes and stitches them back together (or not quite together) in every clever way possible. One by one, cherished nursery rhymes—from “Humpty Dumpty” to “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “Jack Be Nimble” to “Mother Hubbard”—fall prey to sly subversion as master of fracture Jon Scieszka and acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman refashion them into comics strips, errant book reports, anagrams, and manic mash-ups. Playfully reconstructed, the thirty-six old-new rhymes invite further baloney, bringing kids in on the joke and inviting them to revel in reimagining. Featuring robust back matter, this irreverent take on the rhymes of childhood is a great gift for child readers and a rich classroom resource across grade levels, and a is a love song to a living language.


Jon Scieszka is the author of the Caldecott Honor Book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, illustrated by Lane Smith, as well as the Frank Einstein and the Time Warp Trio series and many other acclaimed and best-selling books for children. The first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and founder of Guys Read, Jon Scieszka lives in Brooklyn.

Julia Rothman is the creator of the best-selling illustrated Anatomy series and other books. Her witty illustrations have also appeared in newspapers, magazines, and more. Cofounder of Women Who Draw—an open directory of female professional illustrators, artists, and cartoonists—Julia Rothman lives in Brooklyn.


Kids who love word games, secret codes or Mad Libs will get a kick out of the latest from Scieszka, the funny, anarchic force behind “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!” Like those books, this is an irreverent, revisionist take on a classic. . . playful experiments will inspire curiosity about the possibilities of language and the vagaries of communication. . . Rothman cleverly combines Blanche Fisher Wright’s 1916 illustrations for “The Real Mother Goose” with her own subversive interventions. Gift this book with a copy of Wright’s (still enchanting more than 100 years later) for the full comp-lit experience.

The New York Times Book Review

Deconstructed nursery rhymes entertain and delight in this mischievous endeavor. . . . Stand aside, fractured fairy tales; neoist nursery rhymes are the new name of the game. Creativity incarnate.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In this children’s literature hat trick, Scieszka (the AstroNuts series) and Rothman (Can I Eat That?) mash up a loving spoof of the Blanche Fisher Wright classic, an introduction to Dadaism, and a tribute to Raymond Queneau’s renowned literary experiment Exercises in Style. . . Brains will be thoroughly twisted and tickled by this giddy, handsome celebration of language and logic.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Fans of visual jokes and inspired, goofy wordplay will fall on this transformation of Blanche Fisher Wright’s classic Real Mother Goose with honks of delight.

Booklist (starred review)

Nobody knows better than Scieszka how to turn a kiddie tale on its head and produce true, gleeful chaos. Now the mind that bought readers Battle Bunny (BCCB 12/13) returns with another exercise in DIY iconoclasm, offering strategies to recast the canon of Western nursery rhymes with more contemporary kid appeal. No treasured verse will be safe again once readers master the following outline for literary mischief.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Since the 1992 publication of The Stinky Cheese Man (rev. 11/92), Scieszka has been upending conventions in children’s literature. Here, he’s back at it, with a Dadaist interpretation of Blanche Fisher Wright’s classic The Real Mother Goose. . . . Encouraging youngsters to create their own riffs on literature, Scieszka includes explanations of many of these linguistic conventions. . . Clever, inventive fun.

The Horn Book

Nonsense and absurdity take center stage as Jon Scieszka and Julia Rothman turn six evergreen Mother Goose verses upside down and inside out. . . . Rothman inserts her own impish, comical drawings around reproductions of Wright’s work. . . . The Real Dada Mother Goose is a thoroughly entertaining book enhanced by detailed and plentiful backmatter. This handbook for creative mischief is sure to inspire many hours of Dadaist delight.


The dadaism art movement and The Real Mother Goose nursery rhyme collection came on the scene right around the same time in the early 1900s. Now, more than a century later, their themes collide in raucous experimentations with the nursery rhyme form. Master of mischief Jon Scieszka wreaks hilarious havoc with a sweet classic, producing one of the most thoroughly original works of the year.


Each cheerfully mangled Scieszka poem comes with an equally cheerfully tampered-with illustration by Ms. Rothman, who cuts and pastes and adds her own fillips to Wright’s pictures. The result of all this mischief is a highly entertaining book for children ages 6-9 who are old enough to be conversant with the rhymes and young enough to be tickled by the affectionate irreverence.

The Wall Street Journal

In ‘The Real Dada Mother Goose,’ writer Jon Scieszka and illustrator Julia Rothman riff mischievously on six traditional nursery rhymes.

The Wall Street Journal

Scieszka, known for his wacky sense of humor, is just the right person to create this book, perfect for punsters.

The Sun Journal

If you like upside down nursery rhymes, this is the book for you! Jon Scieszka outdoes himself with a collection of truly strange and wonderful takes on classic nursery rhymes. Paired with Julia Rothman’s fantastic illustrations, this is a great addition to any library.

Book Riot

A book that defies description. . . . I firmly believe that the audience for this book will find it without difficulty. As smart as it is funny, this is the Mother Goose book we didn’t know we’d been waiting for all this time.

A Fuse #8 Production

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