Those who love Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies or Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children will adore Jim Westergard's darkly comic portraits. He illustrates each nursery rhyme twice. First, we meet the young and not-so-innocent heroes of the poems. Then we see them in their retirement, in a rogue's gallery of unrepentant outcasts, crones and sociopaths.
About the author
Jim Westergard was born in Ogden, Utah in 1939. He was educated at a variety of colleges and universities in California, Arizona and Utah where he completed his BFA and MFA at Utah State. Westergard taught at Metropolitan State College and Northern Illinois University before moving to Alberta in 1975, where he taught at Red Deer College until his retirement in 1999. He became a Canadian citizen in 1980.
Jim Westergard has been creating prints from wood engravings since university days in the late 60s, but had never completed a book-length collection until the original limited letterpress edition of Mother Goose Eggs. The first engraving for this project was finished in 1999. Then, after a four-year struggle which included an unexpected hernia operation and reprinting the press-sheets a second time with helpful hints from Crispin Elsted of the Barbarian Press (Mission, BC), Mother Goose Eggs was finally bound and released in a deluxe edition of eighty copies in 2003.
Westergard continues to create wood engravings on his cantankerous old VanderCook SP-15 proof press which he has affectionately named the 'Spanish Fly'. His recent titles include Oddballs (Porcupine's Quill, 2015) and See What I'm Saying? (Porcupine's Quill, 2018).
- Winner, Unisource Litho Award
'There is a laugh on every page.'
'Great attention has been taken with the production of the book. It is printed on wonderful cream paper stock, with a special type font and decorated initial letters, as well as carefully laid-out pages. The original wood engravings are well-executed portraits. However, while some adults may appreciate the bizarre dark humour, this is not a book to share with children.'
Canadian Book Review Annual
'As Bruno Bettelheim explained in The Uses of Enchantment, nursery rhymes and fairy tales confront children head-on with basic human predicaments and existential dilemmas. They exaggerate and distort but they do not try to hide the filthy underbelly of the world -- people's backs are broken, mice are mutilated. Westergard has great, socially incisive fun by taking the rhymes at their straight-faced literal level, thereby backhandedly pointing to our hyper-protective culture of parenting. He underscores the daftness of making strictly deterministic connections between what is read in childhood and one's life as an adult.'
'Jim Westergard may not be the first to invest children's standards with modern sensibilities (think Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs or James Finn Garner's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories), but he achieves a special blend of sarcasm and poignancy in Mother Goose Eggs, Sunnyside Up. The book pairs 25 Mother Goose nursery rhymes (many of which include an unfamiliar and disturbing stanza or two) with Westergard's engravings. With tongue in cheek, Westergard plays up the cruel nature of many classic nursery rhymes -- spousal abuse in ''Tom, Tom, of Islington'', child neglect in ''Hush a by Baby'', and religious oppression in ''Goosey, Goosey, Gander'', for example. He illustrates each rhyme with a two-colour portrait and a larger, black-and-white depiction of the young protagonist as they might have aged -- which is usually not very well.'
Quill and Quire
'Mother Goose Eggs is thoughtful and expertly researched. A reader may pause to consider what life was like when the original poems were written. They may have been historical accounts of the tribulations that different societies and cultures endured in the past. Westergard has put doubt into our minds as to the innocence of children's stories and parents everywhere should be on guard!'