Before I could read I owned a picture book which looked like a Little Golden Book, but might have been published by a different company. It was an illustrated version of the lullaby, “All the Pretty Little Horses.” I begged my mother to read me that book every night, wanting to re-imagine all the different colors of horses.
A couple of years later, my mother gave me my first volume of poetry for Christmas, called Sung Under the Silver Umbrella. I treasured that book, even through the middle-school years when my friends made fun of poetry. I still have the book. For years I felt as if the book were my own little secret–that it had a readership of one, and that I was alone in the world with the poems.
Imagine my surprise to learn that one of Sylvia Plath’s favorite childhood books was the same one I loved. This book was first published for children in 1935, when Plath was three years old. When I got it, the book had been out for a full generation.
The poetry in this book isn’t very edgy by today’s standards. There isn’t even any Shel Silverstein in it. But it’s still a great foundation for building a poetic life. Here’s a sample from the book:
Some day I’m going to have a store
With a tinkly bell hung over the door,
With real glass cases and counters wide
And drawers all spilly with things inside.
There’ll be a little of everything;
Bolts of calico; balls of string;
Jars of peppermint; tins of tea;
Pots and kettles and crockery;
Seeds in packets; scissors bright;
Kegs of sugar, brown and white;
Sarsaparilla for picnic lunches,
Bananas and rubber boots in bunches.
I’ll fix the window and dust each shelf,
And take the money in all myself,
It will be my store and I will say:
“What can I do for you to-day?”