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Rhyme and Reason-bookcover

By: Susan Ackroyd

Rhyme and Reason

Pages: 92 Ratings: 5.0
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Why was a baby in a treetop? Who was Georgie Porgie, the little boy blue, Mary Mary? Little Jack Horner’s family continued to enjoy the plum property he took from those intended for Henry VIII, until the 20th century.

The 20 rhymes in this book show how parliament and king battled over taxation, the authority of kings, religion. Humpty played a part in the English Civil War.

Gain an understanding of history from medieval times through to the 1700s through these rhymes and their stories.

Understand how a nursery rhyme we recite today started life as a political comment and was passed down through the years until now we have forgotten the politics.

Parents, grandparents, and teachers will find the origin of these rhymes fascinating.

Susan lives in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, with her husband. They share their land with many kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, birds, and lizards. She loves history, political satire, entertaining and knitting. As both Susan and her husband were born in England, they love visiting their families, travelling on their narrowboat for multiple months each year. Rhyme and Reason includes knowledge gained on these journeys.

Customer Reviews
3 reviews
3 reviews
  • Sue Butler AO

    Mostly we skate smoothly over the surface of language, at the functional level exchanging
    meanings, or at the rhetorical level creating verbal glitter. Rarely do we pause to think why is a
    biscuit called a biscuit (from the French meaning literally ‘twice cooked’) or why would you want
    to swing a cat even if there was no room (no one is quite sure of the origin of that one but they
    suspect it is nautical).
    It is the same with nursery rhymes. We recite them or sing them happily to the children, relying on
    the flow of the rhythm or the oddity of the images, but we rarely stop to ask about their origins.
    Susan Jackson has called a halt for us all to consider where these rhymes have originated and the
    result is a fascinating collection of the stories that lurk behind the catchy verses, the reasons why
    they were coined in the first place. The rhymes range from 1066 to 1794. Possibly the one where
    the contrast between the apparent innocence of the verse and the terrible nature of the historical
    fact behind it is most confronting is Ring a ring o’rosies. Mostly this is sung now as children hold
    hands and swing around in a circle until they all fall down at the last line. A very satisfying performance
    even if it was completely meaningless. But then you discover that the reference is to the plague in London
    known as the Black Death (1348), the rings were the marks on the skin of people who had the disease,
    and the posies were the herbs they wore that were thought to protect them, and the falling down was
    their eventual death.
    The book has a helpful timeline for the folk rhymes and another helpful list of the kings and queens of
    England, and an index. Some delicate drawings capture the theme of the rhyme.
    These rhymes are at the intersection between language and history. They are a beguilingly easy
    way to catch history’s tail (tale?) and round out our knowledge of the dry facts with this injection
    of human playfulness and ingenuity

  • Review by Susan Beinart

    Ah, the lure of a good rhyme. So many of us are seeped in them. A baby in a treetop, Georgie Porgie, the little boy blue. Who among us hasn’t recited Ring a Ring O’Roses along with childhood friends, and then to our children? And wondered why we all fall down when it ends. Well, wonder no more! Real British history most likely related to these rhymes can be found on these pages.

    Whether we are history buffs or not, Ackroyd’s Rhyme and Reason is a great book to consult at length or even just to skim through. It would be a valuable addition to any school library. All of our favorite nursery rhymes (20 in total) are found and explained here. That these evergreen rhymes are meticulously researched and practically presented to show their likely historical origins is genius. Ackroyd points out that our ancestors may have expressed certain political and social events in childish rhyme forms in order to communicate them without fear.

    And what of Ring a Ring O’Roses? Why do we all fall down? Ackroyd informs that the rhyme may express the fear of death prevalent in plague-riddled Britain during centuries past.

    I give five stars to Ackroyd’s Rhyme and Reason, a book to dip into for sheer enjoyment as well as for the pure joy of special knowledge to be gained.

  • Linda Mabbott

    I have really enjoyed reading the history behind the many rhymes that we recited in our childhood without ever really understanding the true meaning behind them. I have found myself humming along and then singing the whole rhyme out loud not realizing that I had remembered the words. It has been enchanting and I have found myself wishing if only I could have shared this little gem with my dear late mother, she would have been fascinated with the deep meaning and history behind the innocent nursery rhymes. The research into the background of each rhyme is truly remarkable. I will look forward to seeing a second book.

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