Stevenson’s poetry captivated kids

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 15, 2015

I am such a pack rat that I often stumble across forgotten little “treasures” I have tucked away. This time I was cleaning to free space I needed for some linens.

Opening a stuffed drawer, I pulled out a creased, yellowing sheet of stationery. It was wedged between some World War II ration books issued to me and my parents along with some of my daughter’s high school snapshots. All that was jammed in a worn scrapbook bound with heavy twine. I recognized my handwriting in black ink from a fine point pen. My lines scribbled slightly upward, as always happens when I do not use lined paper.

As soon as I unfolded the sheet of paper, I realized I had snatched a few precious minutes from my endless chores as the mother of an active little boy to record my musings about Robert Louis Stevenson’s book of poetry, “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” It read, “I have just finished reading to my young son. When I took the book in hand and began to read, I found myself in a strange and wonderful world. It was not a new, unfamiliar one, but one I had forgotten existed. For me, it was like meeting a childhood friend whose presence brought back many pleasant memories. No matter how many times I read the verses, they always sweep me up into a cloud of wonderment. As I glanced down at my little one, I saw his eagerness in pondering these things. Soon he will create his own block city. Although he has been shown his shadow, finding it is a new game again. And his mother, who sometimes forgets how it was to think as a child, marvels at the great insight of Robert Louis Stevenson. I am so glad it is being handed down through the generations.”

That vividly illustrated book stayed around our house a long, long time and made a few moves with us. Not only had our son been captivated by it. I recall our daughter sitting in my lap, listening to the same verses and gazing at the same pictures her brother had heard and seen.

When I carefully folded the piece of stationery to tuck it into a place for safekeeping, I wondered how long it had been since I had read anything from our favorite book of poetry. Closing my eyes, I could see some of the delightful illustrations in the book. I could even recite a few lines of poetry. I felt the magic that had worked on my children and me. I wondered if today’s parents know about and take time to read his works to their children.

I hope my children remember the times when their imagination was stimulated by those words and pictures. And now, I have a need to find a tattered, well-read “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” I know it is nestled somewhere in one of the bookshelves in my house.


Nina Keenam is a retired journalist.