Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ode to Childhood: Poetry to Celebrate the Child

Ode to Childhood: Poetry to Celebrate the Child

Edited by Lucy Gray
Poetry Book
For ages 12 and up
Anova Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-1849941334

Childhood lasts such a short time and all too often we forget to enjoy the precious years when a child’s imagination is at its strongest, and when life is so full of adventures. In this anthology of poetry, children of all ages are celebrated. The journey begins with poems about babies and wraps up with poems that look at the lives of young people who are about to leave their childhood behind.

   One of the first poems in the book describes a mother’s struggles as she carries her baby “here and there,” and talks “nonsense endlessly” in a fruitless attempt to try to sooth her crying child. She does her best to “gauge what each cry says” and sometimes she succeeds. At other times “All falls flat” when she guesses wrong and does not provide what the child wants.

   Later on we encounter a four-year-old called John who is forever getting into things that he shouldn’t. He spends his time “poking at the roses” or climbing on the furniture. Thankfully, John also likes to play, doing things that are mostly acceptable, such as rolling on the grass, bowling, and losing balls “o’er fences” that the narrator has to replace.

   Then there are the special trips that lodge in the memory, trips to the sea-side when a child digs holes in the sand using a wooden spade. Robert Louis Stevenson tells us about how the holes, which “were empty like a cup,” get filled in with seawater as the tide rises. Or perhaps it is a trip to the zoo where the child sees a wide variety of animals including the monkeys “mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!”  

   There are also those once frustrating everyday moments that are precious when the child is no longer small. For example there is the child who asks “What is the grass?” How is the adult supposed to answer when he or she doesn’t know “what it is any more than he.”

   As one turns the pages of this book, special moments in the lives of children and their grownups unfold. They wrap up us in beautiful images and memories that seem to leap off the pages. Readers will find poems by William Blake, Walt Whitman, W. H. Auden and others in this collection, and they will savor their words over and over again. 

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