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publish the book. It was to be 160 pages long and some 70 artists were to be approached for contributions!


Returning to the rhymes, I explored the original sources of many of the translated verses found initially in anthologies. I discovered, for instance, that the Omaha Native American Song of Two Ghosts – My friend/this is the wide world/we’re travelling over/walking on moonlight – which might have served as an opening invitation to travel the world in nursery rhymes, came from a story in which the ghosts were harbingers of death. Beautiful though the image was, it would not have been sung to a small child. Context mattered. I found instead a simple Papago verse which extended an invitation to parent and child to listen and share the verses to come: How shall I begin my song/In the blue night that is settling?/I will sit here and begin my song. And so revisions and additions continued...


internet exploration, especially for North American rhymes, identified more. The process took some 20 months with over 100 artists contacted and 77 eventually contributing.


When artwork began to arrive (it felt like Christmas every day!), it was clear that the artistic freedom given to the contributors had elicited inspired illustrations. I was delighted by the wit, imagination, multiple perspectives, interpretations, experimentation in style and sense of ‘joy’, as Ashley Bryan put it, that pervaded the images received. I was delighted too by the way the words and pictures flowed through the book. Designer Andrew Watson wove everything together so that the invitation to travel ‘over the hills and far away’ on an adventure in language, image, imagination, and culture that I had imagined all those years ago now came vividly to life. Of course, there is far more to this story but I hope I have captured a sense of the texture and richness of this creative journey which now carries on out into the world. n


Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes from Around the World is published by Frances Lincoln Books, 9781847804068, £14.99 hbk.


With the collection reworked by mid-2012, I began inviting illustrators to contribute artwork. I was keen to match contributors and rhymes artistically, culturally and temperamentally and to involve both established and emerging artists. The positive responses that I received, for example, from Marcia Williams – ‘How did you know I’ve always wanted to illustrate Old Mother Hubbard?’ – and Jessica Ahlberg – ‘I love drawing mice!’ – continued. A Seven Stories/Frances Lincoln competition for art students revealed exciting new talent. Suggestions from agents and artist friends and


Elizabeth Hammill is a Founder Patron and Collection Trustee at Seven Stories.


Books for Keeps No.208 September 2014 13


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