A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
|A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson|
|Reviewer: Sean Barrs|
|Summary: A collection of poetry aimed at young children though due to the latent racism and views on British supremacy, I would not recommend it to a young impressionable reader.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Otter Barry Books|
Robert Louis Stevenson was a very versatile writer; he delved deep into the human psyche when he wrote The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde but he did not restrict himself to representations of the gothic and the persecuted. He also wrote brilliant children's adventure stories such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but, again, he did not restrict himself to prose writing because here he demonstrates his ability to write poetry.
In the fashion of William Blake's The Songs of Innocence and Experience, Stevenson's poetry has a certain deceptive quality. Like Blake's writing, it looks very simple on the surface. The style employed hides the nature of the poetry. The diction is very straight forward, but if you scratch the surface of the poetry and consider the meanings of the words in a wider context you will see exactly what I mean. It is very important to note the era in which Stevenson wrote these verses; he was a Victorian and as such there are some latent views regarding race that would be considered slightly risqué by today's standards.
For example Stevenson celebrates British identity with an attempt at humour, though unfortunately it is at the expense at everything foreign. I would hesitate to recommend this book to children due to the nature of its representations of everything not British. Instead a more mature discerning reader is required to sieve through the falsities of Stevenson's representations, and to understand that he is not entirely to blame for them: he, like all the Victorians, wrote from a position of ignorance towards the east. They believed Britain Empire was the absolute apex of culture and society, everything else by comparison was lesser and underdeveloped. Their view of the world was distorted to say the least.
This edition here if full of colourful illustrations that sit perfectly with the apparent simplicity of the poetry; it, certainly, is very pleasant to look upon. But, again, I would not put this in the hand of a child today because of the nature of some of the poems. A young reader could very easily absorb the information here, information that provides the views and opinions of a mind-set out of date and completely out of touch with the realities of Empire. This, in itself, is a real shame because there are some good pieces of poetry in here, but when Stevenson addresses the foreign he does so with the haughtiness and pomposity that came with his literary era.
If you would like to read a good introduction to the world of poetry then it's worth checking out A Poem for Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri.
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