‘Mother Goose’ takes darker path with reimagined nursery rhymes


Mother Goose has gone rogue, with her nursery rhymes fractured to bring out the ogre in readers of all ages.

Using the rhymes that children for decades have grown up with and memorized, Henry Herz and his sons Josh, 15, and Harrison, 13, have repurposed the classic nursery volume in his “Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes” (Pelican Publishing Company Inc., 2015), a collection made up of the first stanzas of the timeless classic rhymes.

His version speaks of Little Witch Muffet, Hefty Jack Horner, Wee Willy Werewolf, Mary Had a Hippograff and more.

The book is a monstrous twist on traditional childhood literature. With the poems’ lilting meters enhanced by the brightly rendered comic-book style illustrations of acclaimed artist Abigail Larson, the read is playful entertainment.

“This is the first time we collaborated with Abigail,” said Herz. “She is able to convey the monster tone without being intimidating or scary for the younger readers.”

The concept for a more sinister version of the classic Mother Goose rhymes came to Herz when he was taking a picture-book writing class at UCSD Extension and he had to come up with a story for the class, he said.

He turned to nursery rhymes and fairy tales for inspiration. “I did some research on what was available, reminding myself which ones had the right subject matter and length to be adaptable for my purposes,” he recalled.

This led to the exploration of which mythological creatures could replace the original nursery rhyme characters in terms of “fitting the syllables for the names,” said Herz. “And it went on from there,” he added.

His sons gave him useful feedback on his initial drafts and gave him character names.

“Collaborating with him is fun,” said Josh. “He has these really good ideas that go well with the ones my brother and I have.”

To launch the book, two campaigns have been developed. Already started is a virtual blog tour with book reviews and guest blog postings about the book.

The second tour, starting Feb. 22, will be in-person book signings at several Southern California bookstores in which the two boys will take part, said Herz.

A Carmel Valley resident, Herz received a bachelor of science in industrial engineering and operations research from Cornell University, a master of science in operations research from George Washington University, and a master of arts in political science from Georgetown University.

But his literary heart is in science fiction. Herz has been attending Comic-Con in San Diego for several years and has moderated panels there on fantasy and science fiction authors.

Meeting acclaimed New York Times best-selling authors who agree to be on his panel is a big treat, said Herz. “I’m a big science fiction fan from when I was a kid,” he said.

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak made a big impact when he was a child. “I think I got my start there,” said Herz. “I also read ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ at a young age, and I loved that stuff!”

Harrison thinks that collaborating with his dad is “really cool.” He said that the best part is being able to look back on something that he did with his dad and know that “maybe I can do the same with my kids.”

Upcoming book signings are Mysterious Galaxy, 2 p.m. Feb. 22; Barnes and Noble, Santee, 6 p.m. Feb. 25; Barnes and Noble, Mira Mesa, 4 p.m. Feb. 26; and Yellow Book Road, 7 p.m. Feb. 26.

Visit https://www.henryherz.com/ to read Henry Herz’s blog. The book will also be available online from Amazon.com and https://www.pelicanpub.com.