The Inner City Mother Goose

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Born as Eve Moskovitz, American poet and writer

❮PDF❯ ✑ The Inner City Mother Goose Author Eve Merriam –
  • Hardcover
  • 70 pages
  • The Inner City Mother Goose
  • Eve Merriam
  • English
  • 06 May 2018
  • 9780689806773

10 thoughts on “The Inner City Mother Goose

  1. says:

    One of the Goodreads groups that I participate in hosts a daily journal where members post that day in literary history. July is my month to write this year, and I have discovered a variety of authors I would have never heard of otherwise. Eve Merriam (born Eva Moskovitz) was born on July 19, 1906. She was primarily a children’s author and poet who wrote a biography of Emma Lazarus for young readers. Merriam discovered her love for poetry at a young age and wrote her first poems at age eight. Although she wrote for children, Merriam wrote poetry and plays for adults as well. First published in 1969, The Inner City Mother Goose later became the Broadway musical Inner City: A Street Cantata in the early 1970s. Intrigued by the title of this volume, I was able to obtain a copy to read for myself.

    In her introduction, Merriam explains that while the original Mother Goose rhymes are thought of as charming verses for children, their original intent was that of social and political commentary during the 17th and 18th centuries. At that point in history, England was mired in controversy, and even Oliver Cromwell makes a cameo appearance in “Who Killed Cock Robin.” In 1969, Merriam employed poetry as social commentary to bring to light a number of topics that are still relevant today, including: unequal schools, inadequate housing, unemployment, street crime, and cutbacks in funding for essential services. At one point, Inner City Mother Goose was the most banned book in America, as middle class parents, teachers, and librarians did not want to see what they saw as a vibrant, multicultural communities the way they really were. Merriam did not sugar coat anything. By the 1990s, people were ready to begin hearing Merriam’s words, and further editions were published, which is how I obtained a copy from my public library. Here are some brief highlights:

    Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the double lock will keep;
    May no brick through the window break,
    And no one rob me till I wake.

    Ceiling’s in the tub;
    And how do you think it got there?
    Water in the tub
    On the floor above;
    And that’s how our ceiling got there.

    Taxi Man
    Taxi man, taxi man,
    Quick drive me home!
    My house is on fire
    And my children all-!
    Sorry, lady,
    Even in an emergency
    Cabs don’t go to Harlem.

    Urban Renewal
    Urban renewal
    Cleans out the slums,
    Gets rid of the junkies,
    The drunks and the bums;
    Clears out the old stuff,
    Each crumbling wall,
    Clears out the old stuff:
    People and all.

    Inner City Mother Goose took a mere half an hour to read. The scathing poems were indeed set to the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes and indicted both local and federal governments for not paying attention to its urban denizens. Nikki Giovanni wrote the introduction to the edition that I read, and she lauded Eve Merriam for telling things like they are. Before being banned by many municipalities, the original printing of Inner City Mother Goose was over 100,000 copies. Merriam brought to light many issues that are at the forefront of today’s news. Fifty years ago, society at large were not ready to hear her rallying cry; today most people are. Eve Merriam is yet another example of an author I would not have discovered if I did not use Goodreads on a regular basis. This slim volume of her poetry may well rank among the most worthy of my reads this year.

    4+ stars

  2. says:

    Glad I finally read this. Giovanni's introduction to this 1996 edition, Merriam's to the 1981 revision, and David Diaz' art, enlighten and illuminate. Just remember, this is not for little kids, but rather for YA and adults. Too bad the people who need to read it never will.

    The only things I would like would be to see the original rhymes in an appendix, to help with my fluency (poetry is meant to be read aloud!), and to see the original version (because I am always curious about that sort of thing).

  3. says:

    My father read these dark and depressing nursery rhymes to me when I was a small child. It fucked me sideways and twisted me hopeless. I'm am eternally grateful. I'll always consider Eve Merriam my godmother, whether she wants me or not.

  4. says:

    “The Inner City Mother Goose” is a set of poems that are adapted from traditional nursery rhymes to depict the realities of inner-city life. For example, there are poems called “Sing a Song of Subways” (inspired by “Sing a Song of Sixpence”) and “Twelve Rooftops Leaping” (based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas). The book consists of 65 short poems accompanied by a variety of photographs.

    One of the most striking things about the poems was the sharp contrast between the childish, simple rhyme structure and the harsh nature of the content. The contrast worked for these poems because it highlights the fact that even young children are being forced to deal with such difficult circumstances. It allows the reader to clearly see what life is like for some urban children living in poverty. This honest look at the harsh realities of life jolts the reader, reminding them that not everyone feels safe at night and that many people live in dangerous situations.

    This book of poetry is good for adults and high school students, since it sheds an honest light on prejudice, poverty, and violence, but it is not something I would read to young children. The poems contain profanity and drug references, as well as other mature topics. I would recommend this book to teachers, because it might help to remind them that their students’ lives may be more difficult than they seem, but it is not a book of poetry to read in a classroom setting.

  5. says:

    This book is challenged due to inappropriate language and content. While I greatly enjoyed this book, I understand why it has been challenged, especially at elementary ages. The book uses nursery rhymes to make statements on poverty, race, and police brutality is a shocking an effective way. However, the shocking nature of these nursery rhymes is what makes it a book that I find unsuitable for young children. There are instances of intense swearing, graphic depictions of violence, and disturbing images that children at an elementary level would likely have a difficult time understanding, and only be distraught by them.
    This is not to say that children are not able to learn about these important issues, but this book is perhaps not the best way to go about teaching them. Older students, in late-middle into high school would gain much more from this book as I believe at that point they will have an understanding of the social issues and not be disturbed by the way they are presented.

  6. says:

    This book is a collection of poems transforming nursery rhymes into telling tales of the inner city and what life is like there. It has graphic descriptions and crude depictions of the inner city, and while realistic, takes the innocence and tradition out of the nursery rhymes they transformed. I don't know if banning this book was the correct decision, but maybe just being aware of the audience would have been suffcient. It can definitely be shocking to read these poems since they differ drastically from the orginal, sweet, nursery rhymes we are all familiar with. The poems are very creative and entertaining for an older audience.

  7. says:

    Didn't care for it at all
    Inappropriate at times
    Just satire
    Mocks the very foundation early childhood was built on

  8. says:

    This was definitely an enlightening read for me. It brings up many of our society's dysfunctional attributes, such as violence, racism, poverty, abuse, etc. What is sad, I realized, is that I wouldn't be comfortable reading this to 8 year olds, even though the reason this was written is because this is every day life for hundreds of 8 year olds, even in the United States.
    Sounds: like the original Mother Goose, all these poems are written with a distinct rhythm, almost like a song. They are all rhyming poems. They create imagery through the rhyming words that were used.

    Images: the words paint very real and violent images in the reader's mind. You are hit with a wall of fresh reality from these poems. It paints the image in your mind that these children in the poems live a very different "night life" than the average, middle-class American.

    There is not so much a "positive stretch" to this book, simply because it blatantly expresses the hard truth of life in the inner cities. It is enlightening, but not exactly uplifting.

    I may suggest a highschooler reading this for the sake that it is poetry. I would also suggest it to other teachers to bring about awareness of what some of their students are faced with. But definitely not an elementary classroom.

  9. says:

    Grade/interest level: Middle/High school (grades 6-12)
    Reading level: 5.5+
    Genre: Poetry

    Main Characters: Various
    Setting: Various
    POV: Various

    This is a collection of 65 poems that are parodies of original nursery rhymes. The versions presented in this book focus on urban issues such as crime, violence, inadequate housing, unemployment and drug abuse, among many others. The poems are powerful on their own, but even more so when paired with the illustrations.

    The illustrations are bright, eye catching and match up with the content beautifully. They really aid the readers understanding of the text by providing plenty of detail.

    Classroom use/theme:
    Although some people may find it disturbing and much too dark for children, I feel as though it touches on issues that are a reality to many students in urban schools. I think this book could be extremely useful in teaching about social justice and inequality in the classroom. It provides students with culturally relevant reading materials that they can relate to. I think that, although the book rarely touches on positive aspects of city life, it has the potential to spark deep discussions and debates among students if the teacher sets up the appropriate environment for that.

  10. says:

    I read this short book of Mother-Goose inspired rhymes while browsing at a used book store today--it is almost compulsively readable, and didn't take long at all to finish. The themes are violence, drugs, welfare lines, and urban poverty, and the "nursery rhyme" format was surprisingly convincing. The book was published in 1969, but still seems relevant today, which is kind of depressing. I didn't buy it because it didn't seem like the sort of thing I'd want to read more than once, but now I kinda wish I had. Well, it will probably still be there next time. Definitely worth a look.

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