hist whist

June 29, 2012 @ 6:17 pm | Filed under: , ,

A Child's Garden of VersesWhen the big ones were little, we got the Child’s Garden of Songs CD (like every other Charlotte Masonish homeschooler in the country), and oh how those small girls of mine adored it. For years it was their most frequently requested music, especially at bedtime–especially in summer. 😉 We got the beloved Tasha Tudor-illustrated picture-book-sized edition of Child’s Garden of Verses, too, of course: another CM requisite. My girls liked the book well enough, but it was the CD they cherished, and it’s the CD they still recall with affection, and hum around the house from time to time. Those lovely Celtic-flavored melodies got into my blood, too; that’s the kind of music I love best; it stirs my heart, gives me the shivers.

Now and then I’ll realize suddenly that there are these books and songs that meant the world to us ten, twelve years ago (Amazon informs me I purchased the Tasha Tudor book on April 14, 2000—six years to the day before Rilla was born; gosh, even before Beanie was born; and now I’m a little whelmed by the thought that in some respects, Amazon has a better record of my family history than I do)—important to us years ago, I was saying, but my younger trio don’t know them at all. It happened with Miss Rumphius (heresy!) and it happened with Child’s Garden of Songs.

I realized this a week or two ago and tracked down the CD, and we’ve listened to it every couple of days since. Rilla and Wonderboy are as enchanted by its melodies as their big sisters were. Huck remains somewhat indifferent, but then there aren’t any songs about trucks, are there?

The large book with the Tasha Tudor illustrations has failed to jump out from any of the shelves on which I’d expect it to be residing. All I found was the little Dover paperback edition, print only, no pictures; but Rilla doesn’t care. She sprawled on my bed today, frantically hunting each of the poems during the opening measures of its corresponding song on the CD—pause, Mommy, I can’t find it! oh here it is—and then calmly, almost serenely, singing along, kicking her feet, looking up to identify various instruments in the musical arrangement. Guitar, piano, violin, a fluty thing, those little round things you wear on your fingers, more violin, maracas. It was supposed to be my quiet reading time but I gave up on my book and watched her instead. It was a fancy dress day; she likes her sash tied in a fastidious bow, but she scorns anything that binds or tames her hair. The ragged locks fell over her face as she peered down at the book. Amazon says I purchased the Garden of Songs CD on July 19, 2002. Jane was seven that June. You know, last week.

hist whistThe other book Rilla wanted today—wanted fiercely, rejecting my offer of the next Brambly Hedge story—was hist whist, the little paperback picture book that is an e.e. cummings poem set to pictures. Beautiful, haunting, Halloweenish paintings by Deborah Kogan Ray, whose bibliography I must remember to look up. Her work here is exquisite. If I had a second copy, I’d take it apart and hang up the pictures each October. I don’t have to look to Amazon for a record of how this one came to us; it’s a Dragonfly Book, which means I probably picked it up on the giveaway table when I worked at Random House/Knopf. Scott and I have loved this book forever. The language of the poem is marvelously rich, cummings at his best:

little hoppy happy
toads in tweeds
little itchy mousies
with scuttling
eyes    rustle and run     and

You can see why Rilla asked for it five times in a row this afternoon. Five times. I had to smile: yesterday when I added it to our bookstack, she was disgruntled, didn’t think she’d like it. I just began reading it aloud, as if to myself, and by page three she had clambered up beside me and was rapt.

For our family, more than anything else it may be books that serve as our links to years past, our bridges back to the selves we were some time ago. Music, yes, especially for Scott, and for me the 80s tunes of my teens, or certain songs from the Bruce Springsteen mix tape Scott made for me that first summer after we started dating, when he was in Connecticut and I was back home in Colorado—but books are more numerous bridges for me. I’ll remember what bed or sofa we were curled up on, reading this novel, that picture book. The bay window in our Virginia house with Favorite Poems Old and New on its sill, behind the little brown table with the three tiny chairs; and out the window, a red cardinal on the bird feeder, bright against the snow. “Read it again!” they’d beg, shouting. “Page 36!”—The Thomas Hood poem they loved, still love, though now Huck, not Wonderboy, is the three-year-old “imp of mirth and joy” it depicts.

hist    whist
little ghostthings

I think perhaps it isn’t only a Halloween poem after all…

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Kathryn says:

    A comment totally unrelated to your post, except that it is about a children’s book. I just stumbled across a book with the *best* title on Amazon and I had to ask if you had read or seen it … The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. It has some great reviews. Ooh!!! And it has wyverns! We just visited a stately home with wyverns all over the place (stone ones!) as they are part of the family crest.

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    I haven’t read it yet but I’ve heard wonderful things about it—and I remember several years back when the author was posting it on her website a chapter at a time. She was the first person I’d ever heard of who tried that: sharing the book bit by bit as she wrote it. I’m so glad she’s had success with it! It was the first book ever to first to win the Andre Norton award (and perhaps any major award?) before traditional publication. I very much want to read it—it sounds extremely up our alley.

    A stately English home with wyverns all over the place—oh Kathryn, talking about having me at hello. 😉

  3. Kathryn says:

    You need to visit ;). And I need to read that book.

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    I do need to visit. How is it possible I’ve never been to England? An Anglophile like me?

  5. MelanieB says:

    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making… seriously? Oh I have to find that book! What a delicious title.

    And the wyverns. I’d love to see the wyverns. One of these days I’ll get back to England and maybe it won’t be quite such a whirlwind and I won’t be quite so poor.

    My friend and I hiked all the way up to the castle in Canterbury and then discovered that we didn’t have enough money in our pockets for the admission– we’d each assumed the other had taken some out of the ATM or some such. I recall the woman at the window was astonished and said she thought all Americans were rich. And then let us in at the child’s rate, which left us just enough to buy some tea.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Have you not introduced Huck to the Dump Truck Song?

    It’s so cozy to ride in my dump truck
    Everybody come and ride along with me.
    It’s so cozy to ride in my dump truck
    Hop in the back and you will see.

    Tip-tip the dumper, honk-honk the horn.
    Can’t you just hear the engine roarin?
    Crank-crank the engine.
    Grind-grind the gears,
    And listen to the wind whistle in your ears.
    just listen to the wind whistlin’ in your ears.

    There’s more, but that is all I can remember from my sons’ Huckish years. The melody is actually very sweet, and we had it on a cassette and then a CD with a lot of other children’s songs. My guys loved it! (and now I won’t be able to get it out of my head)

  7. Jeanne says:

    And hey – I just blogged about Favorite Poems Old and New appearing in one of my boxes of books —


  8. scott says:

    “How is it possible I’ve never been to England? An Anglophile like me?”

    You’re poor. 🙂

  9. Melissa Wiley says:

    OH RIGHT. I keep forgetting.

  10. Rebecca says:

    Oh I love that CD! I sang their version of “Where Go the Boats” at my father’s memorial service because he was a model shipwright. The music is haunting and the Celtic influence is so lovely. I need to order a new one because, like you, so many of the things I loved with my boys ten years ago are foreign to my girls because they got scratched and never replaced. A couple of other favorites at our house used to be Mike and Peggy Seeger’s Folksongs for Children disc set and Songs from a Naturalist’s Notebook. Think I may go try to round up the whole lot on Amazon so the girls can love them all as well.

  11. shannon says:

    keep up with these recommendations please!! we home schooled very CMish for our first four kids, now 22,20,17,16 – and are now beginning ‘kindy’ with our four year old (also one in utero).

    having focused on high school and post school for so long, I find myself needing some serious reminders of just how we lived our home school life in the early years. our focus then was far more to do with climbing trees and wondering in the paddocks with nature journals.

    Love the book suggestion, and have ordered the cd – keep the inspiration rolling!