Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor)

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Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor)

Category: Children's Rhymes and Verse
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lorraine McDonald
Reviewed by Lorraine McDonald
Summary: A treasury to really treasure. Over one hundred pages of sumptuously illustrated rhymes. What a joy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
ISBN: 9781847804068

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I’m a bit picky on behalf of my toddler. See the word ‘Treasury’ and I expect him to be treated to a volume he will want to pass on to his own children. Anything less and I am disappointed. I’m relieved to get one thing straight from the start. This one’s a gem - a gorgeous joy of a book that you will just want to keep opening again and again. It’s not a question of whether it is worthy of hypothetical grandchildren, it’s more a question of how well thumbed it will be when they get it.

At over one hundred pages, and probably double the number of rhymes, Over the Hills and Far Away is a comprehensive compendium. The fact that I’m still reading now and finding bits that are new to me says more about how much is contained between the covers than it does about my energy and commitment as a reviewer (honestly!).

Elizabeth Hammill has compiled this edition and has done an excellent job of including a diverse range of nursery rhymes, ditties and the odd limerick or two. The stroke of genius that really makes this volume worth its full cover price is the illustrations. Seventy seven artists have contributed. It’s a roll call of the great and good – Nick Sharratt, Jessica Ahlberg, Shirley Hughes, Axel Scheffler, Eric Carle. Oh yes, and the one my little boy ran across the room for, the inimitable Bing Bunny as drawn by Ted Dewan. You can have some fun guessing who drew what. The majority are not signed though each artist is credited in the front index and a short biography is included at the back. There are a good number of new names in here too including Mark Hearld who drew the cover. For me, his depiction of the robin in The North Wind Doth Blow though perfectly lovely, perhaps isn’t the best of the bunch as it belies the warmth and vivacity of the collection, but I guess that’s just a personal preference.

Every style of illustration and layout is to be found here. There is so much to enjoy it’s hard to pull out just a few examples however, I loved Nina Crew’s photo collage illustrating four odd ditties from the US and UK. The simple lines of Lucy Cousins’ Rub-a-Dub-Dub appealed too. The illustration is vibrant and contrasts with the evocative portrait of Noah (Who Built the Ark?) by Jerry Pinkney. The comic strip illustration of Old Mother Hubbard by Marcia Williams deserves a mention. The rhyme, in its full version, is quite potty already, but the additional commentary found in the speech bubbles is still making me laugh out loud on the third time of reading.

Thought has been given to the structure too. Short rhymes are themed together so six weather-related proverbs are arranged on a double page spread and three animal rhymes are grouped. An illustration of a capricious King and Queen serves both Old King Cole and Hector Protector well.

A final note has to be made about the sheer craziness of nursery rhymes. They never fail to bemuse and amuse me. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure some out. This volume contains some examples new to me. I’ve learnt that should I have a new basin I should not show it to Mrs Nix as, like as not, she will dash it on the bricks and, somewhat disturbingly, to check my head and feet are on before going out. I suppose there is some sense in the last one and if I knew a Mrs Nix at least I’d know where I stand vis-à-vis basins. I’ll leave you to imagine the illustration of the boy from Leeds who swallows a packet of seeds. On second thoughts, don’t guess, invest in this treasury and see for yourself.

You would have to go a long way to top Over the Hills and Far Away. For a more subversive take on the nursery rhyme tradition you could try Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes by Hilary Robinson and Liz Pichon

For a more subversive take on the nursery rhyme tradition try Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes by Hilary Robinson and Liz Pichon

Buy Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor) at Amazon.com.


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