|not the version, I got --|
mine is the 1961
"Platt & Munk Classic"
Last month when I was in Memphis, we shopped at a used/new bookshop called Burke's Books, and I brought home a beautifully illustrated version of A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES by Robert Louis Stevenson.
This is not a book I recall from my childhood, but I do know a few of Stevenson's poems, like "My Shadow" and "The Swing."
Many of the poems are simple and delightful, like one I will share below called "Summer Sun." But there are other not-so-sweet poems, like "Foreign Children," which is flat-out racist. The poem is bookended with this stanza:
"Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
O! don't you wish that you were me?"
The middle of the poem talks about how these "other" children live, and how
"Such a life is very fine,
But it's not so nice as mine:"
So NOT the message we want to send any child!
It reminds me of the recent name change of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. I grew up on the Little House books and love them to this day. BUT. These books require some discussion with today's reader -- a discussion that might include ways these attitudes are wrong and how this kind of language is inappropriate and also how the fact that we are aware now of its wrongness and inappropriateness shows how far we've come as a society.
Also, part of the discussion might be in how to "take what you like and leave the rest." How can we still honor/support/love these authors and/or their works in spite of these things? For I will always love the Little House books. I will still recommend them to others. Just as I will recommend Robert Louis Stevenson's "My Shadow."
But now I feel I need to say more -- and I will, as I am doing here today. No one need wish s/he were anyone but exactly him or herself. People live DIFFERENT lives, not better or worse. All humans are equal and should be treated as the valuable, precious gifts that they are.
It helps me to look at these people and their words as historical artifacts. We can learn something from them. We can learn about ourselves.
And now, on a happier note, the aforementioned lovely "Summer Sun:"
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven without repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays
Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlor cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.
The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles,
Into the laddered hayloft smiles.
Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.
Thanks so much for reading!