I bought the Collins Nursery Treasury at a second hand sale, thinking a collection of “timeless favourites” would be a nice addition to our library. I was wrong. Firstly, toddlers don’t really understand the concept of an anthology, so for a long time our son expected me to read the whole book to him, cover to cover, in one sitting. That’s 15 pages of lullabies alone, before you even get started on the nursery rhymes and stories. Reading out “One Man Went to Mow” in its entirety and knowing you’re still only halfway through the book is a special kind of torture.
Fortunately the boy has realised that having endless nursery rhymes read aloud in a (deliberate) monotone isn’t much fun, and now tends to head straight for the fairy tales at the back of the book. However, even these are still an issue for me. The thing with old favourites like Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears is every retelling is different, and the versions included in this treasury seem to have had all the charm and nuance edited out of them.
I have particular problems with Jack and the Beanstalk, in which Jack swaps the family cow for beans without question and then repeatedly steals from the giant for no particular reason, before finishing him off and ending up rich as a result. I’m no expert on the original so perhaps that is essentially what happens, and my son certainly enjoys this version, but I feel there should be slightly more depth to explain Jack’s behaviour. Otherwise it’s just a story about a lazy, greedy little boy being rewarded for his laziness and greediness – I’d almost rather read all 10 verses of “One Man Went to Mow”.