cover image The Voyage of the Ludgate Hill: Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson

The Voyage of the Ludgate Hill: Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson

Nancy Willard. Harcourt Children's Books, $14.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-15-294464-3

In August 1887, Robert Louis Stevenson set sail for America. But rather than sail on a great Birmingham liner, he booked passage on the Ludgate Hill, a cargo-carrying steamer. Although the crossing was rough, the weather beastly and the discomforts numerous, Stevenson's letters homewhich inspired Willard's poembrimmed with enthusiasm and contentment. The ship had not only taken on human passengers, it had boarded some exotic animals, too. There was a baboon ""playing cards with an ape in a gabardine cape'' and five monkeys ``twitching their tales.'' The poem, written in the first person, also tells of Stevenson's encounter with ``a horse who admired my clothes/ but decided my vest was too hard to digest/ and my stockings too involved with my toes.'' Willard has written a wondrous, rhythmic poem about the events that took place during this unusual voyage. The paintings by the award-winning Provensens are superb: muted browns, blue-greens and beiges evoke the somber mood of some of the passengers aboard ship. But bright greens, reds and blues capture and accentuate Stevenson's joy and sense of adventure. Willard and the Provensenswhose talent has previously given us A Visit to William Blake's Innhave produced a spectacularly beautiful book. Ages 5-8. (April)