cover image Where Go the Boats?: Play-Poems

Where Go the Boats?: Play-Poems

Robert Louis Stevenson. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201711-8

Four poems, culled from Stevenson's 1885 A Child's Garden of Verses, comprise this violently colorful yet dreary volume. Although Stevenson's rhymes are superficially about playing, Grover (Max's Wacky Taxi Day) channels the bedridden Scottish poet's loneliness and evokes a gloomy atmosphere. ""The Land of Counterpane"" begins: ""When I was sick and lay a-bed,/ I had two pillows at my head,/ And all my toys beside me lay/ To keep me happy all the day."" In the desolate accompanying image, a boy lies on his back, staring out and away from the playthings that litter his blanket. In ""A Good Play,"" two boys build a makeshift indoor ship: ""But Tom fell out and hurt his knee,/ So there was no one left but me."" The illustration shows a lone boy holding a slice of cake and raising his fork, but the motion seems arrested, as though the cake isn't at all appealing. Grover arranges undiluted complementary hues in orderly, eye-boggling patterns: an aqua-green sheet magnifies a scarlet toy house, a purple bedpost stands against a hot-yellow wall. In spite of the bright acrylics, the stylized images have a static, weighty feel, calling to mind the ""leaden soldiers"" of ""Counterpane."" Ages 5-8. (Oct.)