Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the River and Through the Wood

If I had more time and energy, I would review all the many versions of Over the River and Through the Wood that are out there today.  But I have neither.  So, let me share with you two favorites from my personal search last year.

My very favorite is Brinton Turkle's illustrated copy from 1974.  I mean that name alone, Brinton Turkle, is just so much fun to say.  It's a song in and of itself: Brinton Turkle, Brinton Turkle, Brinton Turkle, Brinton Turkle.  Okay, maybe I've been hanging out with my kids too long.  But they (the kids) love this version; so much so, that we had to buy it.  So we have our very own copy of the nineteenth century, New England family's journey "through the white and drifted snow" to read as often as we please.  And we do read it often!  The kids' favorite verse is:
Over the river, and through the wood -- 
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.
In Turkle's version, it's "to grandfather's house we go."  He also includes all twelve verses, making the journey palpable, escalating our anticipation to that beloved last line: "Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!"  There's also music included on the last page, if you'd like to play Child's song for yourself.

I also enjoyed Christopher Manson's beautifully illustrated woodcuts.  Manson takes us on a journey "with a clear blue winter sky" from the perspective of a young boy witnessing the activities of other little boys (sailing on ice, gathering firewood, sledding, ice skating, playing hockey, giving sugar to a horse, fishing, logging, etc.) while on the way to his "grandmother's house."  I think Manson's viewpoint best reflects Lydia Maria Child's intention since she first entitled the poem "The Boy's Thanksgiving." Now, I know I've whetted your appetite to find a version and read up to "the pumpkin-pie!"

I took the following information about Child's poem turned song from Over the River and Through the Wood: A Thanksgiving Poem by Lydia Maria Child illustrated with woodcuts by Christopher Manson.  New York: North-South Books, 1993.   
The song we know today as 'Over the River and Through the Wood' 
is adapted from a poem by Lydia Maria Child.  The poem was first 
published in her popular three-volume anthology for boys and girls, 
Flowers for Children (1844-1846).  During the nineteenth century 
it was reprinted many times under various titles.  Child's poem 
became the unofficial anthem of Thanksgiving after her friend 
John Greenleaf Whittier included it in Child Life (1871), 
his immensely popular collection of nineteenth-century children's 
verse.  The original poem was twelve verse long, but it has often 
been shortened to six.  This book uses the verses that appeared 
in the Whittier anthology under the title 'Thanksgiving Day'.


  1. Can you just mail me each book you blog about?!? :)I have such fond memories of that song (poem) as a child and now this year- we are going over the river and through the wood to Grandmother's house! Yay. Hopefully we will get an hour to go to the library to get this book. Thanks for your great blogging!

  2. I have that book and read it many, many, many times to my 3 children. And now that I am a grandmother living in a setting that is 'over the river and through the woods' I've dug out to read to my granddaughter.
    I'm enjoying your review of books, many of which I have and kept anticipating grandchildren.