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I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book Paperback – December 7, 2012
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"I saw Esau kissing Kate, / The fact is we all three saw; / For I saw him, / And he saw me, / And she saw I saw Esau." So goes the schoolyard chant that graces this brilliant collection with its title. This "Schoolchild's Pocket Book," edited by lore and literature legends Iona and Peter Opie and gleefully illustrated by Maurice Sendak, definitely belongs on every child's shelf, right next to Mother Goose nursery rhymes and Grimms' fairy tales. I Saw Esau was first published in Great Britain in 1947, but it is vibrantly alive today as a glorious, whimsical collection of more than 170 schoolyard rhymes, ranging from insults and riddles to tongue twisters, jeers, and jump-rope rhymes--"clearly not rhymes that a grandmother might sing to a grandchild on her knee," writes Iona Opie in her introduction. We adore this sturdy, beautifully designed, pocket-sized book of funny, sometimes twisted, but always perfectly illustrated morsels of schoolyard tradition and history. (Ages 4 to 8, and all other ages, too) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This inspired collaboration marries the earliest work of the Opies--British folklorists who for four decades charted the territory of childhood through schoolchildren's language--with new illustrations that show Sendak at his finest. With the shape and heft of a handbook, the volume is, in effect, a primer of children's humor and lore. Many rhymes are instantly familiar; others are less so--especially those with a British tinge. Merely perusing the Contents page, with such tantalizing listings as "Guile-Malicious" and "Guile-Innocent," is a delectable exercise. Because the Opies' particular genius lay in mapping the verbal turf of children themselves--and not adults' often sanitized versions--the rhymes they collected portray not only the playfulness of childhood but its occasional crudeness and cruelty as well. For the same reason, they exude spontaneity and energy. Sendak's illustrations pick up this energy and add their own. His characters are, variously, mischievous, sprightly, gnarly and spectral, and possessed of a seemingly endless array of expressions. Appealing and immediately accessible, they are drawn in simple, clean lines that recall his early work and painted with a broad palette that ranges from rich russets to soft indigos. The text and art are seamlessly interactive: small figures chase each other around the type; larger illustrations mingle images from several verses. And Sendak's ability to create provocative psychological dimension is in full evidence as well. The sequence illustrating the ubiquitous "Rain, rain, go away" is accompanied by a series showing a child's mother gradually transformed into a protective tree; the figure pelted in "Sticks and stones" is a skeleton itself. The republication of these rhymes brings the Opies' work full circle; the book seems a satisfying culmination of Sendak's gifts as well. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Even now I regale acquiantances and friends with the likes of that cruel husband, and even if the lines I've memorized weren't worthwhile in themselves, the endnotes of the book including such tidbits as the meaning of antiquated references and the origins of certain rhymes (many hail back from the 17th century) would be. For the more pragmatic, I could also make an argument that the older poems helped generate a familiarity with less modern texts which aided my lexical understanding and appreciation for dark humor and love for words, but that could be going to far. I get awfully sentimental about this book though, and I want you to buy a copy.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who's read I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book that it has been challenged as "obscene" in Murfreesboro, TN (viz. The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, Feb. 7, 2007). I Saw Esau is exactly the kind of book that begs a challenge. First it's illustrated by the wonderful Maurice Sendak, who seems to trail controversy wherever he goes. Second, the Opies actually collected the rhymes, sayings, and other nonesuch here from actual children, and of course, children must be protected from anything else said by their real-world contemporaries. After all, morons who challenge kids' books in schools either never were kids, have forgotten what being a kid was like, or are such humorless sticks-in-the-mud that they don't feel their own children deserve to have as fun a childhood as they did. (Any other interpretations of such boorish behavior-- and they are legion-- would verge on libel, and thus will not be speculated upon here.)
If, on the other hand, you're a reasonable, thinking human being who has a shred of a sense of humor and are old enough to remember where you were when JFK was shot, and perhaps if you're a bit younger and hung around with people older than you were as a kid, you're going to recognize a lot of what's in here, probably with great fondness. You chanted this stuff, or variations on it, as a kid in the schoolyard. Maurice Sendak's illustrations complement the text wonderfully, often in frighteningly literal manner, and are never less than a pleasure. (But, oh, horrors, one must protect one's children from naked gluteus maximi that appear on a few pages! And oh, how terrible, one drawing features full frontal nudity! Well, tell me-- do YOU take a bath with your clothes on?) If you're younger than that, you'll probably be able to see the germs of your own schoolyard babblings in here, and be equally charmed. If you read it and are offended by it, then you may well be one of that subset of people who simply needs to be offended until you get it. In any case, I can't recommend this book highly enough, both for yourself and to share with your kids. ****
I don't want to give too much away, but in the introduction Iona Opie explains how this book came into being. She says the rhymes contained "were clearly not the rhymes that a grandmother might sing to a grandchild on her knee". However, for the past two Aprils, I have been choosing some rhymes out of this book to read to my toddler son for National Poetry Month. I've probably warped him for life, but maybe in a good way.
I saw Esau is a brilliant collection of beloved and perhaps some long forgotten children chats and teaser remarks. It's quite a treasure and well worth reading.
The artwork is charming in it's old fashioned style and as it combines in some instances a number of pieces to gether to tell one tale in it's imagery.