Apr 9, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: Deceptive Books

This week's Top 10 Tuesday is The Top 10 Books That Were Totally Deceiving. However, this week I'm going to take it easy and just write about one book that was deceiving in some way. I choose Robert Louis Stevenson's 1885 A Child's Garden of Verses. This collection, like Stevenson's other famous writings, such as Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped, and Treasure Island, was and is extremely popular, though many people do not know that Stevenson also wrote poetry for children. 

My favorite of the collection are the ones that address the imagination and the ones that on a second read contain a kind of critique the mindset of imperialism that would ask children to grow up and conquer rather than to grow up and live in productive peace. Both sorts ask readers to consider different, new perspectives. Here are a few samples. I wonder what you think. Are you surprised at these at all, and why or why not?

Pirate Story

THREE of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
  Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
  And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.
Where shall we adventure, to-day that we’re afloat,        
  Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
  To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?
Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea—
  Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar! 
Quick, and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be,
  The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.

Where Go the Boats?

DARK brown is the river.
  Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
  With trees on either hand.
Green leaves a-floating,        
  Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
  Where will all come home?
On goes the river
  And out past the mill, 
Away down the valley,
  Away down the hill.
Away down the river,
  A hundred miles or more,
Other little children 
  Shall bring my boats ashore

Two more after the jump...

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
             Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
             Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
             Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
             Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
              Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,

The Land of Nod

FROM breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.
All by myself I have to go,       
With none to tell me what to do—
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see, 
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear 
The curious music that I hear.

There are many more poems from the collection, over 60 total. You can read more about them here and read them all here.

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