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Pop Goes the Weasel
by Albert Jack

Release Date: 7th Oct 2010
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978 0 1410 3098 2
RRP: £7.99

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A jaunt through the history vaults to find the meanings behind our favourite nursery rhymes...

Maximising on our innate curiosity and overwhelming need to be knowledgeable (even about the most ridiculous or mundane of topics), Albert Jack brings us a definitive guide to the historical origins of our most beloved and well-know nursery rhymes.
We take for granted that our traditional nursery rhymes exist. Jack questions where they came from and why? In answer to this rather daunting question, he set about on a quest of sheer determination to uncover the truths behind rhymes such as: “Goosie, Goosie, Gander”, “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, “Jack and Jill”, “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” and many, many more. In fact, Pop Goes the Weasel provides a relatively thorough analysis on 88 nursery rhymes and 11 traditional songs and anthems. That is a hell of a lot of research given in bite-sized chunks for the price of a couple of pints. And let’s be honest, less likely to leave you with a headache the following morning.

Written in a down-to-earth, matter-of-fact style with just a dash of humour; Jack poses as devil’s advocate, doling out possible meanings behind these charming, playful and occasionally nonsensical rhymes and exposing oft-times the macabre, violent or plain shocking truths of our country’s past. In “Ding, Dong, Bell”, the rhyme recounts the drowning of a cat by a horrid little boy, or how about that harmless “Jack and Jill” – some believe it retells the incident of a certain couple from Somerset who used to court in secret, on a hill. Only, Jack died when a rock hit him and Jill died in childbirth soon after. Not exactly what most parents would think of as harmless.

Our favourites? “Little Polly Flinders” (it’s refreshingly simple and actually quite funny), the author’s preferred versions of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and the hidden meaning behind “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.

To us, Albert Jack is a modern-day literary explorer. Delving into the depths of our culture and history, he draws out the convoluted reasoning behind our most popular nursery rhymes; bringing the fruits of his labour to our consciousness in an effort to enlighten, entertain and educate us. Never has learning about our history been so deliciously or enticingly served up.


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