________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 1. . . .September 5, 2014


Half for You and Half for Me: Best-Loved Nursery Rhymes and the Stories Behind Them.

Katherine Govier. Illustrated by Sarah Clement.
Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books, 2014.
182 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-77050-212-3.

Subject Headings:
Nursery rhymes.
Nursery rhymes-History and criticism.


Review by Michelle Superle.

**** /4



Why are the authors and illustrators of children’s rhymes so little known? This rhyme is taken from the first colour illustrated Canadian children’s book, Uncle Jim’s Canadian Nursery Rhymes for Home and Kindergarten. It was written by Dr. David Boyle, considered the father of archaeology, for his granddaughter Adele.

...The publisher’s British printer went bankrupt and did not return the artwork. Twenty years later the art turned up in a London auction house and was sold for five pounds before its creator could get a bid in.


Half for You and Half for Me is a bewitching journey into the historical lore and family memories that make nursery rhymes so irresistible. As Katherine Govier persuasively points out, these short chants have long staying power in both the collective cultural consciousness and families. Govier’s running commentary alongside her favourite rhymes brings home that power vividly and will appeal to readers of all ages, particularly families reading together.

internal art     This illustrated volume is best considered something like a coffee table book: as a conversation starter. Certainly it is not a work of serious research since the factual tidbits sprinkled throughout are random and far from exhaustive. While that unpredictability may be part of the book’s charm, the lion’s share of its compelling allure is its unspoken invitation for readers to create and chronicle their own family memories in response to the verses—just as Govier has.

      Perhaps surprisingly, the most outspoken “voice” in Half for You and Half for Me is Sarah Clement’s art. Brightly coloured with strong lines, vacillating between surreal and whimsical, the illustrations bring old familiar nursery rhymes back to life. Further, the design and production of the book are of such high quality that they hearken back to the golden era of children’s gift books.

      With countless volumes of Mother Goose in circulation, it’s difficult to imagine how this mainstay of children’s book collections could be reinterpreted in a fresh manner. But Govier and Clement have done so, making a unique contribution to the field. That being said, the book’s intimate focus makes it better suited to home collections than school or public libraries; Half for You and Half for Me would make an excellent gift.

Highly Recommended.

Michelle Superle is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, where she teaches children’s literature and creative writing courses. She has served twice as a judge for the TD Award for Canadian Children’s Literature and is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog and Contemporary, English-language Indian Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2011).

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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