Knowing how much my girls adore all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, I selected this slim little volume of her fairy poems from the library shelf in hopes that it might pique the interest of my eldest whose current opinion of poetry can be summed up in one utterance: “Ugh!” 🙂 (Truly, I think this more a function of her current developmental stage than a true distaste for poetry, for she will sometimes lose herself in a poem and appear to enjoy it while I’m reading it aloud.) I was surprised myself to learn that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote poetry, and while I’m sure her verses aren’t considered fine literature, they are whimsical and entertaining, just the sort of thing my girls enjoy. I was also surprised to find that I enjoyed them, too! This little volume contains five of her poems which were first published in the San Francisco Bulletin. In the introduction, Stephen W. Hines says that Laura wrote these poems in 1915 after going to visit her daughter Rose in San Francisco:
The collection of fairy poems in this book came about from the happy collaboration that had begun to develop between mother and daughter. Rose was writing occasional poetry for a San Francisco Bulletin feature called the “Tuck ’em In Corner,” but she was too busy with other projects to spend much time on it. Wilder, who loved to write poetry, seized the opportunity for herself. (2-3)
Thanks to my reading of The Wilder Life (linked to my review, and admittedly, this is a second-hand opinion), I’m not convinced that this was such a “happy collaboration,” but that’s really beside the point. Included after the introduction in this little book is an adaptation of a 1916 essay by Laura entitled “Fairies Still Appear to Those with Seeing Eyes” in which she mourns the loss of a great many of childhood’s “joys by taking away its belief in wonderful, mystical things, in fairies and all their kin.” Although it’s hard to pick a favorite poem, I think mine is “Naughy Four O’Clocks.” I like to imagine these punctual little flowers refusing to have their faces washed. Enjoy!
There were some naughty flowers once,
Who were careless in their play;
They got their petals torn and soiled
As they swung in the dust all day.
Then went to bed at four o’clock,
With faces covered tight,
To keep the fairy Drop O’Dew
From washing them at night.
Poor Drop O’Dew! What could she do?
She said to the Fairy Queen,
“I cannot get those Four O’Clocks
To keep their faces clean.”
The mighty Storm King heard the tale;
“My winds and rain,” roared he,
“Shall wash these naughty flowers well,
As flowers all should be.”
So raindrops came and caught them all
Before they went to bed,
And washed those little Four O’Clocks
At three o’clock instead.
Richard Hull’s companion illustrations are imaginative, with details and deeply saturated colors, and they help us envision just what these fairies might look like. I love his depiction of the Storm King and poor little Drop O’Dew, with scrub brush in hand, attempting to clean up the recalcitrant flowers.
This little volume was a fun addition to our L.I.W. repertoire. And I think it might’ve caused Lulu to crack a small smile. 🙂 (Doubleday; Introduction, compilation, and illustrations copyright 1998)