Two Little Dickie Birds

Two Dickie Birds Mother Goose Nursery art

Two little dickie birds,

Sitting on a wall;

One named Peter,

One named Paul.

Fly away Peter!

Fly away Paul!

Come Back Peter!

Come Back Paul!

“Two Little Dickey Birds” was first recorded when published in Mother Goose’s Melody in London around 1765.

As I found out, thanks to the Wiggles, this rhyme is also a song with a finger game. It works best with finger puppets, but anything shaped like a bird or just the index fingers will result in lots of fun for all toddlers involved

Here is how it goes:

Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall – Both fingers are wiggled to attract attention

One named Peter – Wiggle one finger, Peter, to attract attention

One named Paul – Wiggle other finger, Paul, to attract attention

Fly away Peter – The Peter hand is quickly drawn to the back. The child sees that Peter, is no longer there – it has flown away

Fly away Paul – The action is repeated with the other hand.

Come Back Peter – The action is reversed to make Peter reappear.

Come Back Paul – The action is reversed to make Paul reappear.


So, how many times can you do this in a row? Because I have a feeling that it will have to be many, many times.

Talk soon,



Baa Baa Black Sheep


Illustration by Walter Crane for the The Baby’s Opera, A Book of Old Rhymes in New Dresses, First edition, George Routledge & Sons, 1877

Baa, baa black sheep, have you any wool?

Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.

One for the Master,

One for the Dame

And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

“Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” goes back to the 12th century at least. It was a time when the wealth of England was very much based on wool. The lord chancellor still sits on a wool sack in the House of Commons to remind everyone about that.

The most common interpretation of the rhyme refers to the medieval English “Great” or “Old Custom” wool tax of 1275, which survived until the fifteenth century. The rhyme sounds like a lament from the farmers of England represented by the little boy. The other two figures in the rhyme are the master and the dame: the master is the king or the king’s representatives, the local nobility which collected revenue on behalf of the king–and the dame is the church. All together the taxes would be more than 2 thirds of the farmer’s profit: a third to the king, a third to the church and a third left for the poor little farmer.

Rudyard Kipling used the title for one of his short stories, where he describes his own misfortunes as a child in a foster home.

It seems like this generous sheep is not as happy as the rhyme and song would want you to believe. But then again, like in a lot of children rhymes, making light of one’s misfortunes is the norm, and maybe, the lesson.

Talk soon,



What have I been up to for the past couple of months?

Well, here’s the rundown:


mary mary det      humpty dumpty

New prints: a new series based on Mother Goose nursery rhymes is available in the shop. Have you seen it yet?



This website. I decided that it was time to put the idea of running my own online shop to rest and leave it to the pros. So, commercial activities have been transferred completely to the Etsy store, and Picture a Tale, the website, is now entirely dedicated to blue-sky pursuits… such as: blog, pictures, FAQ and taking comments and suggestions.



Pinterest. It’s hard work, but somebody has to do it. Also, rethinking the best way to spend precious time and energy for marketing (hint: Facebook and their practices towards small businesses are becoming more and more irritating).




Looking forward to getting back in action!

Talk soon,



Hey Diddle Diddle

Hey diddle, diddle,

The Cat and the Fiddle

The Cow jumped over the moon,

The little Dog laughed to see such fun

And the Dish ran with the Spoon.

Nursery rhyme #2 in our series happens to also be dated, chronologically, right after Mary, Mary quite contrary. Again, here too there are many theories as to the origin, and the fact that these rhymes have been transmitted mostly orally throughout history doesn’t help matters.

Robert Dudley and Elizabeth dancing

The most common theory about Hey Diddle, Diddle connects it to queen Elisabeth I of England, Mary Tudor‘s not-so-beloved sister (and also Mary Queen of Scots‘ nemesis).

Hey Diddle, Diddle was originally published in 1765, as High Diddle, Diddle and reflects the popular use of nonsense phrases in songs and rhymes. Shakespeare himself used the word diddle in his writing.

The cat is believed to represent Queen Elizabeth I who was nicknamed ‘The Cat’ because of the way she played or fiddled with her cabinet members, much like a cat will play with mice.

The cow and moon seems to point to other members of the Court, involved in intrigue that was a huge part of life in the Elizabethan era. There was very strict protocol regarding the behavior of members of court towards each other and towards the Queen and it is not surprising that nicknames would have been given to the various players.

The little dog was reportedly, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Some believe Elizabeth loved Robert while others feel that they were simply very close friends. It is said that Elizabeth once referred to him as her ‘lap dog.’

Elizabeth’s serving lady represents the dish and the spoon was the designation of the royal taster. These two servants fell in love and secretly eloped and ran away from the court. When they were captured, Elizabeth had them thrown into the Tower of London.

As all the pieces fall in place, the interpretation makes sense. Still the image of the cat playing the fiddle and the cow jumping over the moon are so familiar and dear to generations of children that I think I will stick with them for now.

Talk soon,


Mary Mary Quite Contrary

The first time I started looking up nursery rhymes was a few years ago, after Baby #1 was born. Not having grown up with Mother Goose, I did not have many associations with the different rhymes. I just liked them for what they were. And because some of them did not make that much sense, I also started looking up their meaning. What a great surprise to learn about the more or less gory origins of many of them: plague, executions, terrible monarchs, battles of long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I like these things, but it was very interesting to see how the popular culture dealt with these negative events and characters and turned them into them into children’s rhymes: harmless play and history lesson to be remembered, at once.

As I decided to illustrate some of the rhymes, I kept the childish, light-tone that makes them great for kids. But, I also went back to the original meaning and researched it a little more. Not all of them have hidden connotations, and of those who do, it is not certain how much was added much later. Regardless, they do make for intriguing bits of historical trivia and over the next few weeks I will share with you some of my findings.

Here is the first one:

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockleshells

And pretty Maids all in a row.

The first theory on this rhyme involves Mary I of Scotland. The first line how does your garden grow possibly refers to the length of her reign (25 years, during which she lived mostly in France). Silver bells would be a reference to the church bells of the catholic cathedrals. Cockleshells could be an underlying statement that her husband was unfaithful and pretty maids would be a line about the death of her babies.

Another of these theories is about Mary I of England, also known as “Bloody Mary”. Mary Tudor was well known for her obsessive mission to return England to its Catholic religion. The most popular theory about Mary, Mary quite contrary is the one that describes the how does your garden grow as the growing size of the graveyards. The graveyards were growing so rapidly because there were Protestants who were executed because they were unwilling to give up their faith and practice as Catholic. Silver Bells and Cockleshells refer to torture devices. Silver Bells were thumbscrews, which caused the thumb to be smashed between two flat surfaces by a screw being tightened up. Cockleshells were a device for torturing that was placed on the genitals. Then of course the pretty maids would refer to the guillotine type machine called “the maiden.” Beheadings and being burned at the stake were very popular during the reign of Mary Tudor.

As I was saying, executions and mean queens, the stuff of children songs… More to come.

Talk soon,