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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on March 30, 2017
Excellent. A classic. Generations of children have enjoyed it.
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on May 1, 2017
I will first regret the poems are not in poetic layout but in plain prose layout in spite of the rhymes and the capital letters at the beginning of each group of what should have been lines. We miss that visual poetry. The illustrations are the only visual element and they are nice but not enough to make us enter in this world of children’s poetry, of poetry for children that has to be visually clear and attractive.

The second characteristic is that it is poetry written for children. Yet it is mostly in first person as if some hypothetical child were speaking and that is not possible because the language is by far too complicated for a child that has just learned how to read. It is thus poetry that has to be read to children and what children are going to find in the poetry is the music with lines, rhymes and rhythm. It is of course a common convention for children’s literature in the second half of the 19th century, which is Stevenson’s period. Children’s literature is adult literature for children.

The themes are essentially that of a garden, a vast garden and a vast house, if not mansion in the countryside by the sea. We are in a wealthy family or even more than wealthy, with a nurse for that child who is a boy and cannot be anything else, knowing how often he plays with tin soldiers or he plays soldier himself, even if at the end an allusion to a cousin girl is introduced. The world is seen through the eyes of the boy and described through the pen and language of the adult who is telling us the story. The big Louis author is alluding towards the end he is seeing the world through the eyes of a small Louis boy that he probably used to be.

Then you have a lot of seascape, ships, boats, fishing, travelling and foreign countries, though the dominant one is India but only as a distant somewhere. The child is also imagining fairy countries, dreamlike countries to which he is able to travel. But do not expect any Wonderland.

The most surprising element is the total solitude of that child. He is alone, playing alone and by himself with toys he can play with alone. He does not have any partner and adults are not taking part in the games. The nurse only puts him to bed and gets him up. In many ways it is a sad vision of a solitary quasi abandoned child in a wealthy family where everyone is minding their own businesses and hardly the child. So he sleeps at night, watches the sun rising in the morning, plays in the garden all day long, watches the sun setting in the evening and goes back to bed at night. That kind of life is traumatic. A child living such a life should develop PTSS by total lack of love, total lack of company, total lack of another child of the same size, except the imaginary one he creates, and that should lead him to a split personality, a perfect soil for schizophrenia later on.

I was even amazed at finding some social Darwinism in one poem:

The child that is not clean and neat,
With lots of toys and things to eat,
He is a naughty child, I’m sure –
Or else his dear papa is poor.

In other words, it is the fate of a naughty rich boy or a poor boy. And it is normal if you are poor not to be clean and neat, not to have toys and food. There is no questioning of it and it is equaled to “naughtiness” for a rich boy. A good boy, meaning rich, is always clean and neat, has plenty of toys and plenty to eat. Just add to this it is the reward for being a good rich boy and social Darwinism is with you. This concepts of good boy and bad boy are constantly present in many poems and one is for me surprisingly European-centered to the point of reaching infantile arrogance:

FOREIGN CHILDREN

Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
Oh! Don’t you wish that you were me?

You have seen the scarlet trees
And the lions overseas;
You have eaten ostrich eggs,
And turned the turtles off their legs.

Such a life is very fine,
But it’s not so nice as mine:
You must often, as you trod,
Have wearied not to be abroad.

You have curious things to eat,
I am fed on proper meat;
You must dwell beyond the foam,
But I am safe and live at home.

Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
Oh! Don’t you wish that you were me?

How plain cruel it is to turn turtles off their legs knowing they cannot get back on their legs alone. Just as cruel as making the Indian, the Sioux, the Crow, the Eskimo, the Turk and the Japanese only dream of one thing: be a good white European, rich of course.

Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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I have mixed opinions of this collection of poems. I read this aloud to my older son several years ago and he loved the poems, he even memorized several of them. He especially had fun memorizing My Shadow. I've just now finished reading it to my 8yo and have to say he was not impressed. We read a two-page spread every school day as part of our homeschool. Though the poems are written for children, they are written for Victorian children and the 8yo didn't understand half of the words used so we spent a lot of time discussing what each poem was really about and how it applied to things he would recognize in his life today. Sometime he'd think the poem was OK and he didn't dread me reading it but mostly he just thought they were boring. Myself, there are several of the popular poems that I think are wonderful: Bed in Summer, My Shadow, and Picture Books in Winter especially. Some others I'd rather do without.

This edition is particularly nice as it is profusely illustrated with sometimes several pictures per poem by contemporary children's book artists of the time such as Jessie Wilcox Smith and C.M. Burd along with a host of others. I just love the illustrations and could pull this book off the shelf and just browse through it for pure enjoyment. The 8yo though did not appreciate the old-fashioned pictures especially when he couldn't tell the boys from the girls. However, this is poetry I think every child should be exposed to, some will enjoy, others will not. For one, my son will forever remember the name "Robert Louis Stevenson".
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This book was given as a gift to my daughter when she was young, and it is probably the most beautiful board book in our collection.

It contains a number of Stevenson's most famous poems for children: The Land of Counterpane, The Lamplighter, Happy Thought, Foreign Lands, The Cow, My Shadow, The Swing, and My Bed is a Boat. These poems are all lovely, but the nicest thing about this book is the illustrations, which are all from the early 1900s and very charming.

All in all, if you are looking for an attractive board book (or a nostalgic one) to make a nice gift for a new baby or for a very young child, I would highly recommend this book.
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on January 7, 2003
I remember reading this collection of poems when I was a little kid. My dad bought it for me and we'd read the poems together before I went to bed. Stevenson seemed to have a good understanding of how to talk to a child("Bed in Summer" was a favorite!).
I've given copies of this book to a niece and a friend for her young daughter. It's certainly a book that should be part of any child's library.
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on July 9, 2002
This classic edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses" is justly famed because it so beautifully pairs Stevenson's sometimes exuberant, sometimes melancholy poems on childhood with the extraordinary illustrations of Tasha Tudor.
Tudor's delicate watercolors complement Stevenson's work almost to the point that you think the two, living in different centuries, must share some time-travel telepathy with each other. All the classic Stevenson pieces are here: "The Swing," "The Land of Counterpane," the terrific poem about a child's shadow. Tudor depicts only children and animals herein--as it should be--without the presence of shadow of adults anywhere. Both Stevenson and Tudor understand in their bones that no matter what grown-ups may think, children inhabit a world of their own. That world is mostly beautiful, but sometimes fraught with danger or questions. Those hints are present here, but the overwhelming impression any reader will have will be that of beauty--both in words and in pictures.
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on April 19, 2001
This review is of the Chronicle Books edition (ISBN 0877016089).
First published in 1885, Stevenson's marvellous collection of children's poetry has never gone out of print, and remains near the top of numerous "best book's for childen" lists. For example, Maurice Sendak, when asked to list books that he thought every child should have the opportunity to read, named this collection first. Harold Bloom, renowned literary critic (he has received more major awards from his peers than any other) and author of the thought-provoking and controversial "The Western Canon", included ACGoV in the list he furnished in response to an interviewer's request for a "Western Canon, Jr". Among the homeschooling set, everyone from "Unschoolers" to "Classical Christian Educators" recommend it.(It"s on the Classical Christian Support Loop's "1000 Good Books List").
The Chronical Books edition, containing all 64 of the poems that appeared in the original 1885 edition, is lavishly illustrated with more than a hundred pictures, many of them full page, by several of the most distinguished children's book illustrators of the late 19th and early 20th century. The book is well laid out, with a pleasing juxtaposition of art and text, and printed on high-quality paper. It was named one of the "Top Ten Picturebooks of the Year" by Redbook, was an American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists" in 1989, and was given a starred review in Booklist.
Stevenson perfectly captures the child's world of sunshine, stars, dreams, toy boats, swings, apple tarts, fairies, flowers, and far-away places in simple, evocative language which remains just as accessable for today's children as it was for their grandparents. And I can think of only one poem that might offend modern "Politically Correct" sensibilities: "Foreign Children", wherein the speaker imagines asking various nationalities' children "O! don't you wish that you were me!" I guess the historical and socio-cultural context of this poem could be discussed with your child if you were so inclined.
In short, this venerated work, and especially this glorious Chronical Books edition of it, belongs in every child's library. No other volume of children's poetry has been so well loved by so many generations. ...
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on June 16, 2000
Like many others, I first read these poems as a very young child. I didn't realise until rereading them just recently how many of them had stayed with me. The poems all deal with sounds, sights and emotions that will be familiar to most young children. And as an adult, the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson brings back that sense of wonder and amazement that many of us lose as we grow older. One of the poems that I will always remember deals with how difficult it is to go to bed when you are told in the summer when the days are long and the sun is still out. who doesn't remember this?
The illustrations in this particular edition, by Tasha Tudor, capture perfectly the childhood world of the poetry--the imagination in play is wonderfully portrayed. Remember when the space under the table became a cave, or a castle, or a spaceship? These poems and the accompanying illustrations deal with these imaginary adventures that all children share in.
Purchase this book and share it with other adults and with the children in your life. If it stays with you for the rest of your life, then you have gained a treasure.
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on April 12, 2000
Everyone knows Robert Louis Stevenson; everyone has at least one of the myriad books of his poetry. There are some stunningly illustrated collections of his poetry out now, notably two by Thomas Kincaide, among others. But how many of us have actually read all or most of his work? I'm guilty as charged.
This smaller, quieter version of Stevenson's poetry helped me finally, actually read all the Garden poetry. True, the illustrations are spare, but delightfully accurate. My children (7 and 10) were not as mesmerized by this book as they are by others with fanciful graphics, illustrations and larger type to accompany the poetry.
Still, this small book found its way into my purse to be used for waiting moments, e.g. at the orthodontist, doctor, and also to my bedside, where it's shear diminutive size did not dissuade me from reading "for only a minute or two." And within Stevenson's words and language lie the ferment of creative pictures. I liked to have my children close their eyes while I read short poems to 'force' them to use only their mind's eye.
I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures, moods, and images Stevenson conjures and at long last can understand why his poetry remains so classic.
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on February 20, 2001
Poems are perfectly chosen words which are a pleasure to read. Writing them is a true art and Robert Louis Stevenson is able to perfect this art by remembering his own childhood. These poems were written between 1881 and 1884.
This is a selection from the most popular collection of poems about childhood in the English language. Each poem is accompanied by evocative paintings, which are as vibrant as the words in each poem.
The paintings are impressions of color and light and show children and a few animals on beautiful canvases of cities, gardens, meadows and seas. The poems are about flying kites, cows which give cream to enjoy with apple-tart, flowers where fairies live, children sitting in the warm sun, children on a swing, children playing with toy boats and children playing in gardens who will never grow up as they are frozen in time in the beautiful pictures. Here is an example of part of the first poem in the book.
THE WIND
I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies skirts across the grass-
What lovely poems to share with a child. Highly recommended!
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