The book contained 22 prose fables based on famous nursery rhymes:
- "Sing a Song o' Sixpence"
- "The Story of Little Boy Blue"
- "The Cat and the Fiddle"
- "The Black Sheep"
- "Old King Cole"
- "Mistress Mary"
- "The Wond'rous Wise Man"
- "What Jack Horner Did"
- "The Man in the Moon"
- "The Jolly Miller"
- "The Little Man and His Little Gun"
- "Hickory, Dickory, Dock"
- "Little Bo-Peep"
- "The Story of Tommy Tucker"
- "Pussy-cat Mew"
- "How the Beggars Came to Town"
- "Tom, the Piper's Son"
- "Humpty Dumpty"
- "The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"
- "Little Miss Muffet"
- "Three Wise Men of Gotham"
- "Little Bun Rabbit"
Twelve of the stories are complemented with black-and-white illustrations by Parrish.
Baum gives the stories English settings and ambience, with mentions of London, the Sussex downs, and the River Dee. His tactic in the book is to take the often-nonsensical nursery rhymes and weave coherent, or at least self-consistent, stories from them. In the third selection, on the well-known "Hey, diddle, diddle" rhyme, Baum writes to his child readers, "Perhaps you think this verse is all nonsense, and that the things it mentions could never have happened; but they did happen, as you will understand when I have explained them all to you clearly."
Parrish's illustrations were also issued separately in portfolio; Parrish is known to have signed 27 sets. The stories in the collection were also published individually as part of a promotional effort: Pettijohn's Breakfast Food offered the stories to its customers in return for mailed-in labels.
Way & Williams, the book's publisher, went out of business in 1898. The rights to Mother Goose in Prose were acquired by Baum's new publisher the George M. Hill Co. That firm released the second edition of the book in 1901, which included Baum's Introduction to the volume. Baum's next publisher, Bobbs-Merrill, issued a third edition in 1905.