A sumptuous reissue of the classic children’s collection.
First published in Great Britain in 1885, Stevenson’s “Garden,” Alexander McCall Smith tells readers in his enlightening new foreword, has been in print ever since. Given the privileged, white, colonialist perspective glimpsed in many of these 64 lyric poems, today’s audience may wonder what gives this volume such staying power. Stevenson’s nostalgia for the unfettered cares of childhood comes powerfully across throughout. Modern children may have a hard time envisioning his Victorian “Auntie’s Skirts” as “they trail behind her up the floor, / And trundle after through the door.” More problematically, his worldly vantage is shockingly dated at best: “Little Indian, Sioux or Crow, / Little frosty Eskimo, / Little Turk or Japanee, / O! don’t you wish that you were me?” But Stevenson’s ability to craft and describe other realms still soars, demonstrating that the imagination can transport one out of anything—illness, boredom, even loneliness. His crisp depictions of winter, causing “tingling thumbs,” and appreciation of the childhood hardship of having to go to bed in summer “When all the sky is clear and blue,” invite children of any age to “look / Through the windows of this book,” and “in another garden, play.”
Vistas real and imagined blossom again in Stevenson and Foreman’s caring hands—but caregivers will want to choose the blooms they share with care. (Poetry. 5-10)