Als Heel de Wereld een Appeltaart was: Rijmpjes en Versjes

The title of the first of these books of Dutch nursery rhymes is the first line of a Dutch version of this familiar rhyme: If all the world were apple pie, And all the sea were ink And all the trees were bread and cheese, What should we have to drink? The Dutch version is more sensible, for the third line differs from the English and says, ‘We’d have plenty to eat but…’, though sense is not the hallmark of the rhymes and poems that make up these books. Here are gathered traditional rhymes and ditties, together with poems with acknowledged authors. There are counting rhymes, dandling rhymes (there’s a version of ‘This is the way the gentleman rides’), finger rhymes, tongue-twisters, riddles, rhymes using animal sounds, arranged under themes such as ‘The new baby’, ‘What’ll I wear?’ ‘Bedtime’, ‘What’ll we do now?’ and so on. There are lots of cats (who seem to end up in the bath, as often as not, and always on a Saturday, good Christian cats that they are!), mice, plates and pots of food (upright and spilt), dogs, babies, old ladies, cows and knocks at the door. There’s even a Dutch ‘Humpty Dumpty’, or perhaps a ‘Rock-a-Bye Baby’, in the form of Jan, who sits in a tree to keep watch, but when the tree breaks and he is precipitated to the ground, what happens? The cows laugh. (Perhaps it’s more like ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’.) The mildly surreal humour of these little poems is cleverly caught in the delightful illustrations. There’s a rhyme about selling a calf, with an amusing illustration that reveals the calf as a long-suffering adult in disguise. Cheerful greens, blues and yellows dominate Margriet Heymans’s self-contained vignettes with detail deftly suggested in the lines. They remind me a little of Janet Ahlberg, especially the babies with their surprised expressions and tufty hair.