Charles Addams,
The Charles Addams Mother Goose
(1967; Simon & Schuster, 2002)

What could be more innocent than a collection of Mother Goose rhymes?

But those familiar verses take on a whole new meaning when accompanied by the artwork of macabre master Charles Addams, who devised the infamous Addams Family as well as a host of "ooky" characters for his delightful New Yorker cartoons.

The words are unchanged. But the atmosphere they evoke takes a sharp curve when, for instance, Humpty Dumpty's shattered remains reveal a sinister-looking lizard within; when a farmer's wife straight out of "An American Gothic" looks sleepy-eyed at three severed tails on her table; when the spider looks more interested in noshing on Miss Muffet than he does on her curds and whey.

Who wants to guess what other ingredients float in the pot with pease porridge hot? Who wouldn't run in terror from the mouse that ran down Addams' "hickory dickory" clock? Who wouldn't shiver under the tender care of this Doctor Fell? And who wants to sample the meal shared by Jack and Mrs. Sprat when Addams' pen has done its work?

The timeless rhymes of Mother Goose have to work a bit harder these days to hold the attention of the world's over-stimulated children. Charles Addams in 1967 knew what it would take to keep the poems fresh for a jaded audience: a bit of a giggle, a shiver or two and the feeling that everything's not entirely sunny in Goose country. That's exactly what his spoof-riddled illustrations provide. Even better, the familiar forms of Wednesday, Pugsley and the other Addams Family regulars make several appearances in the book.

This deluxe edition includes a several-page scrapbook with photos, sketches and other bits of Addams paraphernalia -- including one vaguely disturbing interpretation of "Red Sky at Night" that was excised from the 1967 collection.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 31 July 2004

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