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Children's Fiction Nursery Rhymes

Half for You and Half for Me

Best-loved Nursery Rhymes and the Stories Behind Them

by (author) Katherine Govier

illustrated by Sarah Clement

Whitecap Books
Initial publish date
Mar 2014
Nursery Rhymes, Media Studies, Beginner
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2014
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 18
  • Grade: p to 12


"Half for you and half for me / Between us two shall goodwill be." Here is a nursery rhyme book to entertain both adult and child as they read together. The classic rhymes are side by side with annotations about their backstories: Who was Wee Willie Winkie? Did live blackbirds really fly out of a pie? Was Humpty Dumpty a person—or a clumsy cannon?

When she was small, Katherine Govier tucked in close to her mother's side to listen to nursery rhymes. Later she read them to her own children, and now she has returned to reading them with her mother, who can no longer see well enough to read the pages of their nearly hundred-year-old Mother Goose book. Still, her mother can recite the words. What is the magic and what is the meaning of these rhymes that stay in our heads for a lifetime?

The answers are here. Some rhymes describe historical events and some are just plain nonsense. Some of the oldest rhymes were never intended for the nursery, but for the street—where they came to life as popular judgments on events of the day. In Half for You and Half for Me, the author breaks the codes of these nursery rhymes in accessible, amusing explanations. She also adds some classic Canadiana, including a poem by star children's poet Dennis Lee.

Commissioned illustrations make this book full of colour to draw in the eye. Charming vintage drawings also pepper the text, firmly rooting the rhymes in their historical context.

Half for You and Half for Me will engage, delight, entertain and inform younger and older readers alike, and aims to be that favourite title that is pulled off the family shelf again and again.

About the authors

KATHERINE GOVIER’s most recent novel, The Ghost Brush, is about the daughter of the famous Japanese printmaker Hokusai. It was published in the United States as The Printmaker’s Daughter, and in translation in Romania, Spain, Quebec and Japan. Katherine’s novel Creation, about John James Audubon in Labrador, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2003. She won Canada's Marian Engel Award for a woman writer (1997) and the Toronto Book Award (1992). She has twice been shortlisted for Ontario’s Trillium prize. The author of twelve books, Katherine has been instrumental in establishing two innovative writing programs, Writers in Electronic Residence and The Shoe Project, which works to improve the written and spoken English of immigrant women. Katherine travels between Toronto and Canmore, Alberta, in the Rocky Mountains.


Facebook: KatherineGovierWrites

Twitter: @kmgovier

Katherine Govier's profile page

Sarah Clement is a graduate of Langara College and Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She has participated in solo exhibitions in Vancouver, and, most recently, in Berlin, where she lived for the past year. Sarah takes her inspiration from the natural world and is interested in telling visual stories through whimsy and detail.

Sarah Clement's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Katherine Govier brings us a new look at many of the traditional nursery rhymes. While we have all known these rhymes since we were young children, when we look at the actual words and events in them we find that many of them are truly violent and many young parents today are saying they are unacceptable for young children. As Govier states in her introduction "The oldest rhymes were not intended for the nursery. They were not for children. They were for adults, repeated by the irreverent and mostly powerless population to mark events, satirize the powerful or pass judgement. Quite often they can be seen as code? Yet for the most part we remember them throughout our lives and keep repeating them to our children and grandchildren... The book is illustrated in bold detailed full page colour paintings by Sarah Clement which will delight the younger readers? This book of nursery rhymes is not just for the young child. Because of the "stories behind" the nursery rhymes, this book will appeal to older students, especially those studying traditional literary forms, and adults who have an interest in this literary genre. It would be appropriate in any library or in a personal collection."
Resource Links

Half for You and Half for Me is a bewitching journey into the historical lore and family memories that make nursery rhymes so irresistible. As Katherine Govier persuasively points out, these short chants have long staying power in both the collective cultural consciousness and families. Govier's running commentary alongside her favourite rhymes brings home that power vividly and will appeal to readers of all ages, particularly families reading together. . . With countless volumes of Mother Goose in circulation, it's difficult to imagine how this mainstay of children's book collections could be reinterpreted in a fresh manner. But Govier and Clement have done so, making a unique contribution to the field. That being said, the book's intimate focus makes it better suited to home collections than school or public libraries; Half for You and Half for Me would make an excellent gift.
Highly Recommended."
CM Magazine

"Engaging and delightful for young and old!"
CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens

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