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Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Nursery Rhymes of Yesterday Recalled for Children of Today
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Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Nursery Rhymes of Yesterday Recalled for Children of Today

3.07  ·  Rating details ·  71 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A collection of nursery rhymes, including: Little Dame Crump / Merry Green Fields of England / The Old Gray Goose / The Robber Kitten / The Ragman / Joe Dobson / Poor Lady Dumpling / Old Mother Tabbyskins / The Hungry Fox / Frog Went A-Courting / The Keys of Heaven / Dame Trot and Her Comical Cat / The Old Crow / Come Hither Little Puppy Dog / Old Crummles / Jim Finley's ...more
Hardcover, 104 pages
Published June 1st 1937 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (first published 1937)
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I have heard two of these nursery rhymes I believe. Most of them were new. I knew 4 and 20 blackbirds and Old Grey Goose and lastly the Little Red Hen.

My favorite rhyme I enjoyed most was RufflecumTuffle about elves going to a fairy party. If that was the story, I would give it 4 stars. I think this is difficult for children today who are exposed to modern stories and entertainment so quickly. I tried a few of these on my kids and they didn't show too much interest. Some of the better ones they
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers Interested in Nursery Rhymes / Robert Lawson Fans
An influential early twentieth-century children's book editor, Helen Dean Fish was the driving force behind the publication of the picture-book Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book , which won its illustrator, Dorothy P. Lathrop, the very first Caldecott Medal back in 1938. That same year, another of Fish's projects, this collection of twenty-four nursery rhymes, illustrated by Robert Lawson, became the very first Caldecott Honor Book. Here, in Four and Twenty Blackbirds, we have some ...more
Jim Erekson
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a very nice little collection, with Helen Dean Fish's special attention given to songs not usually featured in the Mother Goose collections. Only a few of the shorter verses are included, and quite obscure. The longer items are most often complete, multi-verse songs. A good number of these have obviously been cleaned up for modern use, with hints of older darker themes hiding in the background. But for some of them, the old themes are strong and rich like black coffee.

My favorite in the
Dec 30, 2011 rated it liked it
1938 Caldecott Honor

Favorite illustration: The sweet puppy dog, with glasses reading the ABC book in the nursery rhyme called "Come Hither"

Favorite nursery rhyme: Most were unfamiliar to me, but I liked "Dame Trot and Her Comical Cat"

Kid-appeal today: I think it will really depend on the child. Many of these nursery rhymes are dark and morbid, as was the case with many traditional nursery rhymes. The language can be a bit awkward for modern readers, but my 7 year-old loved it, especially for the
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So now I have two favorite nursery rhyme Caldecotts - this one has a greater proportion of rhymes that I'm not familiar with. Compiler Helen Fish's forward explains the why and how of gathering the rhymes, and Lawson's illustrations are magical and amusing, with the blackbirds fluttering from page to page throughout the book. This could well be a book readers to young listeners will preview and trim. The table of contents, illustrated with one small image from the rhyme it goes with, consists of ...more
Robert Davis
Funny how Helen Dean Fish had two Caldecott winners in the inaugural year (Honor and Medal) in which she simply collected biblical verse and nursery rhymes without any original text. It seems like she was simply riding on the coattails of superior illustrators work and taking credit for it.

I surely was not expecting to enjoy this book half as much as I did. What a delight! First and foremost, the black, white and green illustrations are absolutely fantastic. Truly superb in their detail and
Amanda Carlucci
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised. This book is not exactly what it looks like. It's not about 4 & 20 blackbirds or anything else Mother Goose. Some are older than that, if you can imagine. The idea behind this book was to put together a collection of lesser-known, under-appreciated tales. The author searched and dug through many ancient tomes as well as interviewed various American families from different backgrounds whose traditions included telling these tales to their children, at bedtime ...more
I've been trying to get a hold of this book for awhile, as it was the last book from 1938 (a Caldecott Honor) that I needed. It is a collection of nursery rhymes, which are explained in the table of contents and the introduction by the compiler Helen Dean Fish. Most of the rhymes are put to song, and the melodies are listed in the back of the book. I feel like the rhymes are either too morbid, random, or violent, but maybe that was the norm in the 18th and 19th centuries, when these rhymes were ...more
Katie Fitzgerald
This book is a collection of some really great old nursery rhymes, some of which are very obvious cousins of songs we know and sing with kids today (such as Old MacDonald). One of the rhymes, "We Are All Nodding," I actually took down to possibly use at story time because it seemed like it would be fun to act out. I also loved the poem toward the end of the book that laughs at domestic disputes. Though I liked the Robert Lawson illustrations, it was the text of the rhymes that made this book a ...more
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nerdcott-2012
Very interesting book, and the nursery rhymes get quite gruesome at times. My favorite was "And he bit off his head and sucked his blood and ate him all up, and then lay down to see what Hooty would do when he came back". I enjoyed "Rufflecumtuffle" a lot, and it is a very interesting study of how many of these nursery rhymes have evolved over the years. Many of the rhymes in this book exist today in very different forms, and are familiar, but with modifications. The artwork was fun, but nothing ...more
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
These old nursery rhyme books are difficult to hook kids in with. My 9 year old niece and I just skimmed through it and read a few of them. She did specifically mention liking the picture of Fat Lady Dumpling.
Cassandra Gelvin
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Rather too large to be a dainty dish.

This review originally published at

It's 104 pages long. It's actually got a musical score in the back of it. There's a bunch of rhymes and songs I've never even heard in here. I've heard "The Old Gray Goose", and "The Hungry Fox" looks familiar. I think I've also heard "Frog Went A-courting", but not that many verses. There's a rhyming version of "The Little Red Hen", which I've never seen before. I wonder if
Time moves on.

Despite the authors best attempts at keeping these songs and poems alive, almost all of them are now completely forgotten in common American lore and knowledge. They are simply not relevant. The language is archaic, the daily life activities of the average person have changed so much, that it takes a life time of reading to comprehend the action in some of these poems.

Certainly, the only part of this book that is still enjoyable for children is the rhythm of some of the songs.
Maria Rowe
1938 Caldecott Honor Book

This was difficult for me to get through. The language is dry and the stories are often depressing. I do like that these are older nursery rhymes, and actually considered old when the book came out in 1937. Id only heard 2 or 3 of the them. The illustrations are well done.

Materials used: unlisted
Typeface used: unlisted
I forgot how violent some of these classic nursery rhymes were. It is an interesting collection, with some rhymes being very familiar and others that have fallen out of style. Illustrations were okay, typical of the artist.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
This beats out a lot of the other books of nursery rhymes in the Caldecott lists, as the rhymes are purposefully not ones included in other collections. Robert Lawson's illustrations win for me as well. But these are kind of odd in some cases.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing for three reasons: 1) beautiful pictures; 2) it helps undermine Mother Goose's hegemonic control of classic English doggerel; 3) cats with guns, more than one.
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
1938 Caldecott Honor

Wow! Times have certainly changed. There were a lot of not so happy endings in these nursery rhymes. And often, when they were actually happy, the rhyme was preachy.
Nov 06, 2014 rated it liked it
The picture of Poor Lady Dumpling is the best. Most of the pictures are nothing too interesting. It is nice to read the tales and the few that have music scores in the back are fun too.
Ann Williams
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: caldecott-honor
May 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Knew a couple of these old nursery rhymes. Great illustrations.
Caldecott honor
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I found it really interesting to read some nursery rhymes that are lesser known, although many were quite gruesome. I also really enjoyed the illustrations.
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Dec 02, 2015
Stacy McRae
rated it liked it
May 18, 2018
Kathy G.
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Sep 28, 2019
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Dec 30, 2011
rated it it was ok
Jul 11, 2017
Mik Hamilton, D.C.
rated it it was amazing
Aug 24, 2008
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