Because I write book reviews to serve a wide audience, I include books for all ages. This one, obviously is for very
young children—a book of verses illustrated by Kate Greenaway. Little kids would love the poetry, as it describes typical activities they would do (back
in 1885), and adults will enjoy the beautiful illustrations; I have no idea where this book came from, but I suspect it was in a box of books given to my
mother by one of the many women with whom she traded, and she set it aside for me. There was no publication date on it, but it was easy to establish that date
with a little research. This may possibly have been an original edition.
And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The illustrations are exquisite! Greenaway has an impressive education in art. You may read all about her on her Wikipedia page. Here is the opening paragraph. I like to read about people who became quite successful when their family situation was not one of prosperity. Especially women, who often struggled to succeed even under favorable conditions.
Catherine Greenaway (17 March 1846 - 6 November 1901) was an English Victorian artist and writer, known for her children's book illustrations. She received her education in graphic design and art between 1858 and 1871 from the Finsbury School of Art, the South Kensington School of Art, the Heatherley School of Art, and the Slade School of Fine Art. She began her career designing for the burgeoning holiday card market, producing Christmas and Valentine's cards. In 1879 wood-block engraver and printer, Edmund Evans, printed Under the Window, an instant best-seller, which established her reputation. Her collaboration with Evans continued throughout the 1880s and 1890s.
This is the second of her books I have read, the first being,
Language of Flowers, which is not a children's book, but a tiny encyclopedic volume of the
meanings behind individual flowers, herbs and other plants, particularly pertaining to Victorian England, which was a big deal back then. So as of this
writing I do not have an Index Page for her, but I am starting to collect her works. (Five is the number that qualifies a person for an Index Page!) I was
delighted to find a
Project Gutenberg page with fourteen of her works (so far), and an
Internet Archive page also. If you use the latter, always download the PDF version, as I have found that the other formats often don't
even exist, and if they do they are very bad quality. Anyways, this saved me having to scan the illustrations in my copy, and allowed me to copy and paste the
Unlike many children's rhymes, especially the really old ones that stood for something horrid, such as "Ring Around the Rosy," (which was actually about the Plague), these are delightful! They tell of good boys and girls and naughty ones, too. Of kind Grandmammas and nasty ones. Of children"s dreams, longings and fantasies. Of the love between mommies and children and of brothers and sisters. Of events and activities, such as school, the market, tea parties and dancing. What makes them so charming—and I think adults will find them so, too—is that they recall the days of a simpler life, where humanity was not ruled by Artificial Intelligence and corrupt politicians, corporations and institutions. When you wanted to talk to Grandmamma, you walked to visit her! There are those of us in our 60s and beyond who remember those times. Here are just a few of the gems. This is from page 5.
In the next one, the children long to visit the sun, so the clouds gently pick them up and take them there. But there's no one to answer the door. This is from page 8.
In this poignant poem, "Miss Molly" picks daisies, but a voice alerts her that she may be separating loved ones. What a beautiful attitude towards all living things! It is on page 9.
In this next one from page 12, the children are happy to walk to their kind Grandmamma, who gives them cake and lets them play in her garden. Momma doesn't look too happy about the long walk, though.
And this one is about the mean Grandmamma! HA! Nobody looks too happy in this one. The remainder of the poem is below it. It is on pages 15-16.
If I looked right—if Tom looked left—
And little Prim, I'm sure, is shocked,
To hear such naughties named."
She said we had no manners,
If we ever talked or sung;
"You should have seen," said Grandmamma,
"Me walk, when I was young."
She told us—oh, so often—
How little girls and boys,
In the good days when she was young,
Never made any noise.
She said they never wished then
To play—oh, indeed!
They learnt to sew and needlework,
Or else to write and read.
She said her mother never let
Her speak a word at meals;
"But now," said Grandmamma, "you'd think
That children's tongues had wheels
"So fast they go—clack, clack, clack, clack;
Now listen well, I pray,
And let me see you both improve
From what I've said to-day."
The next, on page 20-21, is a fantasy about four Princesses who lived in a Green Tower in the middle of the sea.
Their curls were golden—their eyes were blue,
And their voices were sweet as a silvery bell;
And four white birds around them flew,
But where they came from—who could tell?
Oh, who could tell? for no one knew,
And not a word could you hear them say.
But the sound of their singing, like church bells ringing,
Would sweetly float as they passed away.
For under the sun, and under the stars,
They often sailed on the distant sea;
Then in their Green Tower and Roses bower
They lived again—a mystery.
Here's one celebrating that oh-so-English tradition: A Tea Party! It is found on page 42.
And on page 48 is a poem about a little girl who is able to see and hear that which others cannot.
And last, we see Miss Molly again, this time enjoying looking at a tub of fishes, and the voice reminding her to return them to their river when she is done. It is from page 50. There are 57 pages all together.
So, whether you have little children or grandchildren who would enjoy this, or you yourself appreciate the quaint charm of the Victorian era and yearn for a return to an age of the simple joys of the natural world (don't rule it out—we cannot continue on this path we are on), then this is a book you will adore. The two links above give you several options. The Project Gutenberg edition is the better one with more easily readable print and vivid illustrations which are truer to the original. Recommended!
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