Tag: robert louis stevenson

5 Poetry Books That Our Family Loves

I missed National Poetry Month by a solid month with this post, but you seem like a forgiving bunch, and one who doesn’t mind reading about poetry out of season, right? Of course, there is no “out of season” for poetry, really. It’s perfect for reading in the spring, when garden beds and sunsets seem to speak in verse, and for reading on sunny summer afternoons—preferably on a picnic blanket in a backyard, perhaps with chickens clucking nearby and bees weaving in and out of the flower stalks. Poetry is just right for fall, too, when the rain hits the windows with its own poetic rhythm, and for winter, when the warmth of fleece blankets and black tea are worth a stanza or two alone.

Over the years, our family has collected a number of poetry books, perfect for all seasons. We don’t read from them as often as any of us would like, but we have a few collections that get pulled off the shelf, passed around and read aloud more often than any of our other poetry books. Some are old—very old—and some are new. But all of them are lovely and worth sharing over lunchtime quesadillas or steaming cups of tea.

5 Poetry Books That Our Family Loves | Little Book, Big Story

A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES, by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

Andrew Pudewa once described this as “A Girl’s Garden of Verses,” but of course, that doesn’t trouble our family one bit. These poems have been among our most-read, much-beloved, highly-dogeared favorites for years. (Read the full review.)

A CHILD’S CALENDAR, by John Updike

A Child's Calendar, by John Updike | Little Book, Big Story

John Updike takes us through the months of the year with twelve lovely poems. Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations put those poems in the context of one family that you can’t help loving by the end of the book.

A Child's Calendar, by John Updike | Little Book, Big Story

ANYTHING BY A.A. MILNE

The Poetry of AA Milne | Little Book, Big Story

Just the rhythm of Milne’s poetry is addicting. He gives snippets of it in Winnie-the-Pooh, but his volumes of poetry are so much fun to read. We’re not always sure what happening, but we always love the language.

ALL THE SMALL POEMS AND FOURTEEN MORE, by Valerie Worth

All the Small Poems, by Valerie Worth | Little Book, Big Story

These poems are lovely—beautiful and accessible and about the most ordinary things. (Read the full review.)

THE GOLDEN TREASURY OF POETRYEd. Louis Untermeyer

The Golden Book of Poetry | Little Book, Big Story

I found this behemoth in an antique store and purchased it on a whim. When we did sit down with it, though, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it contained everything from silly rhymes to giant narrative poems of the old school. Our favorites have to do (rather predictably) with Robin Hood. We read them dramatically—with flair. Over and over again.

Which poetry books have won hearts in your house? I’d love to hear some of your favorites.

A Child’s Garden of Verses | Robert Louis Stevenson

This week’s summer rerun originally published on April 26, 2013 (my 30th birthday!).


I didn’t sit down and think, “A ha! I have it—the perfect edifying exercise!” It happened on its own one day at lunch, when I picked up A Child’s Garden of Verses and began reading poetry to the girls as they finished their quesadillas.

What happened next surprised me. They asked for another poem, and then another. And the next day at lunch, they wanted me to read to them again. And so it began: we assembled a small library of dinner-table books and began thumbing through one or two of them at each meal.

Mary Oliver. A.A. Milne. Billy Collins. Shel Silverstein. Valerie Worth. Some were written for adults, some for kids, but all of them are lovely, hilarious, sustaining poetry.

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t do this at every meal, or even every day, but when I do grab a book from the shelf, four little eyes light up as the girls wait to see which poem I’ll choose. And when it’s from A Child’s Garden of Verses, one of their very favorites, they often put their forks down and listen closely.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems have a peace to them and feel for all the world as though you’re sprawled in the grass of a Scottish lawn as you listen. He had a sharp memory for the joys of childhood and a knack for choosing the perfect words to describe it. Poems like “Keepsake Mill” move me, while the girls can’t get enough of “The Cow,” “The Lamplighter,” or “My Bed is Like a Boat.” I mean, the man wrote half a dozen poems about bedtime, and every one of them is enchanting!

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

The only thing that could improve it, really, are Joanna Isles’s illustrations. Detailed and gorgeous, they show children doing what children do best: playing, inventing, imagining, creating little worlds within their games.

There are a number of editions of this book available, all with different illustrators, but we are all so smitten with Isles’s interpretations that I firmly encourage you, if possible, to track down her edition. We found our copy at Goodwill, and my oldest daughter spent the next day tracking a small orange cat through every single picture in the book. That’s still a great game for us, one that my youngest now loves as well: “Where is the cat in this poem? Can you find him?”

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

A Child’s Garden of Verses is classic children’s poetry at its best, a charming book that would fit right into any library. (Plus, it’s perfect for reading together over peanut-butter sandwiches.)


A Child’s Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson, Joanna Isles (1885, repub. 1995)