Three Wise Old Women                                                             Back to booklist

From The Publisher

Nonsensical appeal and vibrant illustrations will lead young readers right into this picturebook in rhyme. The poem about three silly ladies provides illustrator Yu-Mei Han a rollicking chance to show off her style, reminiscent of the earthy characters of Margot Zemach. Uproarious escapades unfold in maxed-out color as the wise women's wits run away from them, leading them on a fantastic journey over land, sea, and skyˇXuntil at last they find themselves happily back at home.

The read-aloud rhyme about the three wacky wanderers offers not a whit of wisdom, but giggles galore.

Author Biography: Elizabeth T. Corbett was a prolific author of poetry for children in the late 1800s. Yu-Mei Han's illustrations for Round Is a Pancake were called ˇ§gloriousˇ¨ by Booklist and ˇ§cheery . . . in jewel-bright tones full of tiny detailsˇ¨ by Kirkus Reviews.

From Publishers Weekly

There are three of them, and they're elderly and female, but they're certainly not wise-and therein lies the fun of this nonsense rhyme by Corbett, a 19th-century poet. The trio sets off for a walk-"One carried a basket to hold some berries,/ One carried a ladder to climb for cherries,/ the third, and she was the wisest one,/ Carried a fan to keep off the sun." Spooked by some ursine-shaped clouds (as Han interprets it, at any rate), the women fear that they might be pursued by a ravenous bear, attempt a silly escape atop a pile of rocks and succeed in getting blown out to sea: "And every time the waves rolled in,/ Of course the poor things were wet to the skin. " With a lot of luck and a smidgen of goofy ingenuity, however, they end up safely back at home, in Han's spirited spreads if not in Corbett's open-ended poem. The artist revels in portraying the women's Wagnerian emotions, their zaftig figures and their slapstick responses to the comic calamity (pantaloons can be glimpsed on more than one ccasion). Undulating shapes and striations of high-octane color define the fanciful landscape, echoing the singsong meter of the rhyme. Ages 3-up. Feb..) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

From The Horn Book Magazine

It wouldnˇ¦t make much of a story if the three old women were really wise, so of course they are silly. Corbettˇ¦s nonsensical poem, written in the late 1800s, tells of three ladies set off to pick berries and cherries, taking with them a basket, a tall ladder, and a fan. ˇ§But they went so far, / and they went so fast, / They quite forgot their way at last. / So one of the wise women cried in a fright, / Suppose we should meet a bear tonight!ˇ¨ In a terrible panic, the trio get on top of their ladder to escape potential bears and get blown into the sea, ˇ§ in a leaky ladder instead of boat,ˇ¨ With the fan for a sail and the basket to bail. Hanˇ¦s illustrations extend the story in playful directions, giving the women animal companions all along the way, and where Corbett leaves her story open-ended (You must find out / for I donˇ¦t knowˇ¨), Han showˇ¦s the women arriving safely back home. Her three women are extravagantly foolish, and she uses equally extravagant colors with lots of turquoise, orange, and bright pink, just shy of garish for a very cheery effect. S. D. L.

From Children's Literature - Nicole Peterson

This beautiful picture book is unique because inside its pages not a single piece of wisdom is to be found. The text, a whimsical old-fashioned rhyme, is just that ˇX whimsical and old. Quite old in fact, Elizabeth T. Corbett wrote the poem in the late 1800's, and Yu-Mei Han just recently illustrated the book for children. The bright images will enchant children because of the colors and detail in each illustration. The pictures are bright, colorful, cheerful, and quite imaginative. The expressions on the faces of the main characters (three "wise" old women) are beautiful, and vary on each page. The animals that surround the women are delightful, and children can find animals such as pigs, chickens, bears, seagulls, rabbits, and ducks throughout the book. Although the poem offers no traditional wisdom,children will laugh and giggle as they read about the wacky wanderers and view the detailed drawings. Parents will enjoy the simplicity of the story and the color of the illustrations. 2004, Dutton Children's Books, Ages 3 to 8.

From Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2-The text for this book comes from a nonsense poem written by Corbett in the late 19th century. Three not-so-wise ladies go for a walk, lose their way, become frightened at the prospect of meeting bears, and attempt to sail home using a ladder as a raft and a feather fan as a sail. The poem is mildly amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. Han's illustrations are relentless in their intensity. The characters-women, farm animals, and bears-are either grinning so broadly their faces would hurt, or sobbing wildly. The colors of the landscape are unnaturally bright and vivid, and the constant swirling lines that make it seem as if even stationary objects are on the go have a dizzying effect. Libraries owning Jack Prelutsky's Scranimals (Greenwillow, 2002) or Jane Yolen's Animal Fare (Harcourt, 1994; o.p.) already have better nonsense choices to offer. -Grace Oliff, Ann lanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

From Kirkus Reviews

Transforming a brief bit of 19th-century nonsense verse into an elaborately silly outing, Han sends three women of diverse but mature years, dressed in long, brightly hued pinafores, capering down a country road on a cherry-picking expedition, along with a similarly frisky band of bunnies, birds, and other small creatures. It all goes wrong, alas, as they first worry about nonexistent bears, then find themselves not in a tree, but blown out to sea. So: "whether they ever sailed home again / whether they saw any bears or no, / You must find out, / for I don't know." Despite misadventures, the sojourners generally look as if they're enjoying themselves, and younger viewers will likewise chortle at their antics. For fans of Audrey Wood's Silly Sally (1992) and its ilk. (Picture book. 6-8)

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