Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 1938 Caldecott Honor Book

Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a series of old nursery rhymes collected by Helen Dean Fish with illustrations by Robert Lawson.  This 1938 Caldecott Honor Book certainly belies its age.  While I typically enjoy Mother Goose-type rhymes, I found these more cumbersome, less interesting, and even more frightful.  Overall, I would suggest sticking to the more commonly known nursery rhymes.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Each rhyme has a corresponding, very detailed sketch in black and white with a very antiquated appearance.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – These illustrations do fit the poems well.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – I suppose the illustrations would have been appropriate at the time the book was written, when my grandparents were children, but since we now live in a world so full of color, I can only wish for a more colorful addition to these very verbally descriptive stories.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each individual poem is well-depicted in each of these characteristics.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – As previously explained, the lack of color leaves this book less than exciting when there are so many other similar nursery rhyme collections available which are vibrantly illustrated.


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