Wednesday, September 09, 2020


Recently, a reader of AICL wrote to me (Debbie) to say they'd been looking through editions of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses in their library. They had seen my 2017 post about depictions of Native peoples in various editions. 

They sent me photos of the poem, "Travel." Here's the edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor:

In Tudor's edition I circled a line. Here's the full verse:  

Where are forests, hot as fire,

Wide as England, tall as a spire,

Full of apes and cocoa-nuts

And the negro hunters' huts;


Here's the edition illustrated by Brian Wildsmith (I think it came out in 1966):

Instead of "and the Negro hunter's huts", the line is "And the brave hunters' huts". When the Wildsmith edition was being done, who made the decision to change that word? 

The "Travel" poem itself is a lot like "Foreign Children." Both poems center whiteness. Those who are not white are depicted in racist and exotic ways. 

Here's "Foreign Children" in the Tudor edition:

As people in the U.S. and elsewhere tend to racism and bias in statues, I wonder what we'll see in books like A Child's Garden of Verses? It gets published over and over with different illustrators. Will that taper off? Will changes to what gets included in it change? Do you work in a library? What versions are on your shelves? What do you see in them when you read them, or when you compare them with other editions? A growing awareness of racism and bias is a plus for everyone.