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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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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.
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.
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