cover image Block City

Block City

Robert Louis Stevenson. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86964-8

Kirk (Moondogs) creates a compelling contemporary setting for a poem from Stevenson's classic A Child's Garden of Verses. and the results are felicitous all around. Kirk pictures a boy on a rainy day, who answers the question ""What are you able to build with your blocks?"" with an elaborate harbor city set against a mountain range (inspired by the green sofa and turquoise carpet of the living room). There's ""a kirk and a mill/ and a palace beside"" (the illustrator helpfully notes on the copyright page that ""the word 'kirk' means church. You can trust me on this one""). The boy also imagines elephant sentries and visiting potentates who are ""Coming and going/ with presents and things!"" The smooth, stylized surfaces and careful detail make a fitting match for the formality and floweriness of Stevenson's verse; even when there's no verse at all (Kirk turns the center spread into a wordless procession worthy of Cecil B. DeMille), the poet's playful and gentlemanly presence hovers over all. The city doesn't survive for long, however. Even way back when, Stevenson understood that half the fun of building up is tearing down: as the skies clear and sun streams through the window, the boy says, ""Now I have done with it,/ down let it go!/ All in a moment,/ the town is laid low."" More than a century may separate Kirk and his author, but clearly they're simpatico. Ages 3-6.