The Girl of the Golden City

Zoe’s new favorite book is her Christmas book from Papa John, My Very First Mother Goose.  She loves the Rosemary Wells illustrations (although I find some of them a little creepy), but I think what she loves most are the rhymes themselves, especially the ones we can sing.

There are the familiar ones (Baa Baa Black Sheep), the ones that I sing based on their use in toddler TV (the tune we use for Hey Diddle Diddle was inspired by the Wonder Pets), and the ones I sing-chant (most of them, really).  And then there are the ones that I know must be songs, but I don’t know how they go.

First in that category is this one, one of my favorites in the book:

The wind, the wind, the wind blows high,

the rain comes scattering down the sky.

She is handsome, she is pretty,

she is the girl of the golden city.

She goes a-courting, one, two, three,

please and tell me who is she.

I don’t remember this one from my childhood, but I have fallen in love with it this week.  It turns out it’s an English and Irish folk song, “I’ll Tell Me Ma”, and the girl is variously the girl in the golden city, the belle of Belfast City, or the belle of London City.  Check out the Gaelic Storm version of the song here.  Or, if you prefer, a Disney montage version.  (You’re welcome.)  Okay, and if you really want more, revel in the PBS schmaltziness of the Celtic Tenors version.  (Pro Tip: If you knew there were not just Irish Tenors, but Celtic Tenors, you are one up on me.)

I am delighted to combine two of my favorite activities, reading and singing.  Zoe is a fan, too.  Yesterday was a very windy day in Minnesota, so we sang “Five Little Pumpkins”, which we know both from Raffi and from a board book we have.  “Let’s do another one!” Zoe said when we were done.  “Let’s sing another book!”

What are your favorite nursery rhymes or childhood songs?  Or, which ones do you find a little bit creepy as an adult?


The best image I could find for golden girl (as much as I love Rose, Dorothy, and Blanche). This Golden Girl is a Captain America sidekick!



Filed under Book Report

2 responses to “The Girl of the Golden City

  1. We love Gaelic Storm in this house and I’ll Tell Me Ma is on one of the discs that I like to listen to while mowing the lawn. Jigs and reels are great for dancing to while mowing. My neighbors think I’m nuts.

    The Cub loved, and still loves, song books. One of his favorite is Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton. I have no idea how the real song goes (she has a disc of songs from her books), but we have fun with it. And he will sing the music from Little Einsteins all day. At least it is classical.

    As for creepy, Ring Around the Rosie, now that I know the background of the song. And I’ve changed the words in You Are My Sunshine to “When I awoke dear, you were right with me” and Rock A Bye Baby to “And Mommy will catch you, cradle and all”.

    My favorite, though, is Hush, Little Baby, by Sylvia Long, which takes all of the buying stuff out and instead works with hearing, seeing, books, blankets, teddy bears, etc. I loved to sing that one to The Cub. But he prefers You Are My Sunshine and Rainbow Connection now. He’s almost 6 but we still cuddle up to read and sing before bedtime.

    It is hard to keep repeating the same songs, but it’s the start of learning for your little one. Enjoy.


    • Fun! It’s important to have music that makes you move when you’re doing that kind of work.

      Snuggle Puppy! I think I came close to buying that for Christmas but resisted. I will have to look into it, since we are of course big Boynton fans in this house. I love making up tunes, and have good practice from the Frances books–Frances does a lot of singing.

      I used to change the words in Rock A Bye Baby, too, but Zoe seems perfectly happy with the actual, terrible lyrics! I haven’t sung You Are My Sunshine in a while, but those are some sad words, too, you’re right.

      I love Hush Little Baby! My dad sang that to me every night growing up. I don’t think I could bear to change those words! These days Zoe’s main bedtime song is Away in a Manger, or He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands with silly lyrics. I love the bedtime rituals and will miss them one day!

      Thanks for stopping!


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