First Rhymes

You can buy my books from lots of bookshops and online retailers; I favour Hive and Waterstones

Illustrated by Selina Young

A book of new rhymes, games and songs for 3-6

When the paperback of One Hungry Baby was published, I was asked to do a new version of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ for inside the back cover. I enjoyed writing it so much that I decided to rewrite all my favourite nursery rhymes for a new audience, plus a few new ones of my own, and some rhyming stories (like Jack and the Beanstalk, the Three Little Pigs and Young Prince Cole) for bedtime. This book is the result, and it goes from early in the morning to late at night, with all the activities children love in between.

Here is my favourite finger rhyme from the book:

“Round and round the garden
Like a squiggly worm.
Wriggle down my sister’s neck,
Watch her squeal and squirm!”

Why I loved writing this book

Ever since I read Wendy Cope’s subversive and anarchic takes on nursery rhymes and childrens’ poems in Serious Concerns and Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, I wanted to rewrite the things my mother had sung to me as a child for a modern generation. Wendy’s poems ‘A Green Song to sing at the bottle bank’ and ‘Publishers’ make me laugh still, 15 years after first reading them. I wrote a poem for her when I was writing the book, which I am making public here for the first time. I was much too shy to send it to her back then.

A Tribute to Wendy Cope

Nursery rhymes are hard to write
Trying keeps me up all night.
Apples and pears,
Say the bells of St Clare’s,
But Hey! Fiddle Tum
Just doesn’t sound right.
Nor Young King Nat
Is a gloomy young chap,
Nor an earwig fell
In Miss Muffet’s lap.
Nursery rhyming’s hard to do
I’ll stick to poems,
Forget Boy Blue.

Apart from anything else, this was also a great exercise in how to write poetry. It’s huge fun to find an existing poem with a good rhythmic structure, take it to pieces and put it back together again. Try it sometime!

Published by Orchard Books 1994 (hardback) and 1997 (paperback)
Book Club edition (main selection) with tape 1995 (BFC) reprinted 1996 and 1999
German edition Schneiderbuch 1995
US edition Barnes and Noble own-brand 1997


Here are three of my favourite rhymes from the book. Remember the originals?

Monday’s Child chews kippered plaice,
Tuesday’s Child has an eggy face.
Wednesday’s Child is full of toast,
Thursday’s Child can eat the most.
Friday’s Child has the biggest tummy,
Saturday’s Child throws beans at his mummy.
But the Child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Has sunlight for breakfast, with buttered sea-spray.

This little piggy flew to Luton
This little piggy sulked at home.
This little piggy crunched doughnuts
This little piggy ate crumbs.
And this little piggy cried, “Wee, wee wee!”
“I need nice new knickers, please, Mum!”

Rub a dub dub,
Three babes in a tub
And who do you think got wet?
The daddy, the mummy,
The teddy bear’s tummy, So Hoppity Out You GET!


“A hugely enjoyable collection…something quite fresh.”
Jill Bennett in The Guide to Poetry 0-13 (Powling/Styles)

“A marvellous collection…that your children will demand to hear again, and again, and again.”
Poetry for 6 and under

“Useful start for budding Shakespeares.” From the ‘Must Buy’
list in Picture Book Quarterly Summer 1997

“…can be addictive, one may find oneself reciting even after the children have gone to bed.” Picture Book Quarterly 1997

Sadly out-of-print, but can still be found in secondhand bookstores, or online at AbeBooks.