Michael Foreman on illustrating A Child's Garden of Verses

Image from A Child's Garden of Verses - a lamplighter with his ladder
Category: Reading

We're celebrating Robert Louis Stevenson Day by giving away some beautiful copies of A Child's Garden of Verses, illustrated by the legendary Michael Foreman. In this blog post, Michael talks about illustrating the book and which poems mean the most to him. Don't forget to enter our competition at the bottom of the post!


I was introduced to the work of Robert Louis Stevenson by one of my primary school teachers. It was just after WW2 and books were in short supply. One of the teachers, just returned from the War, realized that few of village children had books at home. He brought in books from his own childhood to read to us. I will never forget him. His name was Oscar Outlaw, certainly a name to remember, and I will never forget the day he began to read Treasure Island. It is still my favourite book. Many years later, to my delight, I was commissioned to illustrate it. 

I also illustrated two collections of Stevenson's short stories for the Folio Society, including 'The Body Snatcher' and other spooky tales. A Child's Garden of Verses, however, is the Stevenson book closest to my heart.

Image from A Child's Garden of Verses - a young boy in bed looking at a bird on the window ledge

This edition of A Child's Garden of Verses is very special to me. I worked on the illustrations when our son, Ben, was very young, new to us and new to the world. It was a magical time seeing him begin to explore his world, each day a new adventure. Robert Louis Stevenson captures this feeling of wide-eyed wonder perfectly.  

I was fortunate to have my studio at home, so I could experience and enjoy the details of a toddler's day, and night. The child in the pictures in this book is Ben at home, in the park and by the sea. The mother, of course, is my wife, Louise.  

Memories of my own childhood have been very important to my work.  The connection with the child within, the child of long ago, has been one of the major influences on my books. This bitter-sweet feeling is beautifully captured in the final poem, 'To Any Reader.'  

Image from A Child's Garden of Verses - child reading a picture book on a window seat
Another favourite poem is 'Picture Books in Winter.' The picture shows Ben with his favourite knitted dinosaur in the window of our old home, enjoying the magic of books. Books that tell of the wonders of the world, waiting to be experienced. The poem 'Travel' whisks me away, once again, beyond far horizons:


'I should like to rise and go

Where the golden apples grow;

Where below another sky

Parrot islands anchored lie,...'


Who can resist the urge to pack a bag and go?

The illustration to 'Foreign Lands' depicts three-year-old Ben in Cornwall, gazing out across the Bay, towards St Michael's Mount and the limitless horizon beyond. Cornwall has long been a home and inspiration for us, and Ben, after some years travelling the world, now has a family of his own and they live in Cornwall by the sea where he shares these timeless verses with his children...

You can see more images from the book in the gallery below!


A Child's Garden of Verses cover
This beautiful edition of A Child's Garden of Verses is out now, published by Otter-Barry books, who have generously given us a copy to give away to one lucky winner! To be in with a chance of winning the book, just answer the question at the bottom of this blog post.

The competition will close at midnight on Thursday 30 November 2017.  

Please note our full terms and conditionsOnly one entry per household. 

Michael Foreman

Michael Foreman has won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice, and has twice been nominated for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award. His books include War Boy, War Game, Mia’s Story, One World and Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish as well as many classic story collections with Michael Morpurgo. Michael Foreman lives in London and Cornwall.


Which famous novel by Robert Louis Stevenson features the characters Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins?

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