Work & Play: The Finger Plays of Edith Goodyear Alger

  • Chloe Kuka University of Florida


The desire to make learning fun clearly motivates Edith Goodyear Alger’s two poetry pieces, “Finger Play” and “Monday.” A masterful blend of poetry and visual art produced in collaboration with illustrator Albertine Randall Wheelan and published in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1895, these poems are as edifying as they are entertaining. The lines of simple poetry show children that the chore of washing clothes can be framed as a game, while the lively illustrations of gestures for children to perform while they read, termed finger plays, cultivate imagination by encouraging children to see the “little space ‘twixt fingers & thumbs” as a penny or a cookie.