A Child’s Garden of Verses

This morning my girls will discover Picture-books in Winter by Robert Louis Stevenson in their Poetree Calendar. With its delight in curling up inside with a good book whilst outside the air is crisp and cold, and letting that book take you on adventures far and wide worlds away from the here and now, it’s a wonderful match for much that we love at Playing by the Book Towers.

Reproduced with permission

This gorgeous illustration comes from the newly re-issued Robert Louis Stevenson collection, A Child’s Garden of Verses, illustrated by award-winning Michael Foreman and published by Otter-Barry Books.

This collection of poems is, as Alexander McCall Smith puts it in his foreword to this edition, all about “simply…being a child confronting the world in all its glory”. First published in 1885. I’m not sure what I can add to 130 odd years worth of commentary but I certainly agree with McCall Smith’s suggestion that

Childhood has many facets, but one of them is most certainly an imaginative, transformative one, light-hearted and airy […]. If we wish to encourage that view of the world in our own children – and it lasts for only a very short time, after all – then one way of doing that is to read them poems from this book.

The innocence and romance of many of Stevenson’s poems is, I believe, something worth embracing in our hectic, noisy world. By offering my girls the tools to find joy in simplicity and escapism – including through slipping poems like these into their daily diet of words – I hope they will develop valuable skills that will help sustain them.

Foreman’s glorious illustrations for A Child’s Garden of Verses were first published on the collection’s centenary in 1985. A mixture of full colour illustrations and black and white sketches, all are full of warmth and playfulness, drawing out aspects of Stevenson’s poetry and helping the Victorian words feel fresh and immediate.

This particular edition is eminently worthy of wrapping up beautifully and placing under a tree; hardback, with a very stroke-able cloth-like cover and ribbon bookmark, Foreman’s illustrations are beautifully reproduced so their colours sing and dance across the pages.

One of the joys I find in poetry is how it can bring people together; different generations in different parts of the world can have read the same poem and have a shared experience despite all the distance and difference, and this edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses would be wonderful to gift across the generations; grandparents, parents and children can all find a space they share together within the pages of this keepsake book.


You can read an interview I did with Michael Foreman here.

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