Mama Lisa's World of Children and International Culture

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Following on from my post on Friday, about Danielle Wright’s My Village, I’d like to draw your attention to another website which is a treasure-trove for anyone wanting to know about rhymes and nursery songs from all over the world: Mama Lisa’s World, written by Lisa Yannucci, who has contributed a Personal View to our current issue of PaperTigers, “Opening up the World (and the Web) to Children through Songs and Nursery Rhymes“.

On Mama Lisa’s World, the vast collection of songs and rhymes is organised by continent and country – and if you have a favorite from your childhood, or one that you sing with your children or class, which is not already featured, Lisa would love to hear from you. Or, if you can’t quite remember that favorite, you can send out a call for it via Lisa’s blog – like this latest one about a rhyme from Latvia.

The blog provides a wonderful exploration of different cultures through children’s rhyme – I loved this recent post about Japanese lullabies and this one with gorgeous photos of children in Indonesia! And serendipitously, her latest post ties in perfectly with what I was saying on Friday about our new kitten and puppy – an old English poem about “How Kids Should Treat Pets”…

Poetry Friday: a Chinese puppy and a Russian cat from My Village…

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Linking in with our current music theme on PaperTigers, our featured book on the Tiger’s Bookshelf at the moment is the beautifully produced My Village: Rhymes from Around the World, collected by Danielle Wright, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi and introduced by Michael Rosen (Gecko Press, 2008). Aline has already blogged about it (and it’s well worth reading her post if you missed it first time round, as well as her full review on the PaperTigers website) – so I won’t say more about the book itself except that it is a delight.

Since we have just had our lives turned topsy-turvy by the arrival in our midst of both a kitten and a puppy, we have been looking for poems about cats and dogs. Funnily enough, we haven’t so far found any with both animals together (so do let us know of any suggestions…) but here in My Village, both get a mention. “Little Friends, Hand in Hand/ Xiao Peng You, Gou Gou Shou” from China is about a Puppy, a Piglet and a Monkey and would be a fun action rhyme to share with a little one; and “Hush You Mice” is a catchy verse from Russia about a cat:

Hush you mice! a cat is near us,
He can see us, he can hear us.
– What if he is on a diet? –
Even then you should be quiet!

I really like it that the original languages are also provided, both in their original and Western script where appropriate. This integrity of language is very much a reflection of the It’s A Small World website, set up by Danielle. It’s great news that they are now working on a second book – and the call has gone out that they “would love to hear from anyone with rhymes – particularly USA, Spain, Korea, Sweden, England, Mexico, Poland and Finland.”

And why not join their Book Crossing Experiment – a great idea for parents and teachers to do with their children: “a cross between a treasure hunt and a message in a bottle!”?

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Kyle at The Boy Reader

My Village: Rhymes from Around the World

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

In a world where language conveys powerful messages about attitudes and values, what better moment to introduce its many “looks and sounds” than the nursery years? My Village: Rhymes from Around the World (Gecko Press, 2008), collected by New Zealander Danielle Wright and illustrated by British artist Mique Moriuchi, does exactly that: it brings together, in a beautiful multilingual volume, an array of nursery rhymes that introduces children to the languages and cultures of 22 countries. In addition, My Village perfectly communicates the potential rhymes have of becoming “companions for life”—something alluded to by Children’s Poet Laureate Michael Rosen in his beautiful introduction to the book.

Wright’s website, It’s a Small World, offers more about the core idea behind the book. “I wanted a way to introduce different cultures to children right from the nursery“, she says. “Imagine life without world music or ethnic food – that’s what a child’s reading life would be like without international kid’s books and poems… In our grandparents generation eating ethnic food was not commonplace; now their great grandchildren live with many cultural influences outside their own and sometimes many cultural influences inside the one home. Feeding a child rich language from other cultures is a good way to help him/her grow up culturally sensitive.” The website also includes a page on the history of nursery rhymes and a map of endangered languages which points to a scary fact: within the space of a few generations more than half of the 7,000 languages currently spoken in the world may disappear, “consigning whole cultural perspectives and histories to silence.”

Ethnographer Wade Davis has a beautiful definition of language, that gives us much to think about: (more…)