Block City


What are you able to build with your blocks?
Renowned illustrator Daniel Kirk has joined his "blocks" — in this case, bright colors, bold shapes, and retro style — with Robert Louis Stevenson's classic poem to construct a nostalgic yet exuberant celebration of fun and imagination. It is a joyous look at playtime that will encourage toddlers to build dreams all their own!

A child creates a world of...

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What are you able to build with your blocks?
Renowned illustrator Daniel Kirk has joined his "blocks" — in this case, bright colors, bold shapes, and retro style — with Robert Louis Stevenson's classic poem to construct a nostalgic yet exuberant celebration of fun and imagination. It is a joyous look at playtime that will encourage toddlers to build dreams all their own!

A child creates a world of his own which has mountains and sea, a city and ships, all from toy blocks.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wolff, creator of such visually arresting books as A Year of Beasts, illustrates a favorite poem from A Child's Garden of Verses. In her now familiar combination of strong black, block-printed line juxtaposed with vibrant watercolor, she explores the literal and emotional content of Stevenson's work. The simple jacket of this well-designed volume shows a wagon full of bright blocks, with the softly evoked watercolor outline of the block city in the background. This is closely followed by pictures of other elements named in the poem: an overstuffed sofa becomes mountains, and the carpet becomes the sea. The pages illustrating the boy's imagined city are carefully detailed, incorporating subtle references into the timeless landscapes of each spread. Ages 3-7. (September)
Children's Literature
Stevenson's poem opens up the world of possibilities for a child with imagination and a large set of blocks. As the rain pours down outside, Kirk invites us to explore with a young boy the wondrous construction that takes him on the adventure the poet describes. The nostalgia of the author's memory of "my town by the sea" can be felt by the adult reader, but the sense of power in the building and even the destruction is clear to all. Using Prismacolor pencils and gouache paints, Kirk slickly fills his spreads with inventive but believable block constructions and peoples them with wooden dolls. The lucky young boy with the buckets of blocks gives scale to and personalizes the creations. But it is the care with which the blocks are rendered, and the town, city, palace, etc. are designed that draw us into his artistic processes. The visual story ends with the end of the rain and friends calling to come out to play, as the words reminisce about the past. 2005, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 3 to 6.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2 Wolff's colorful paintings, which resemble block prints, cleverly combine with and enrich Stevenson's poem. Large two-page spreads show a young boy at home reading on a rainy day. As he starts to build with his blocks on the floor he creates an elaborate landscape that comes alive. The hard edges of the cut block contrast with muted colors that fade off into the distance to echo the corresponding relationship in the poem whereby the solid building blocks combine with the child's imagination to create a world of palaces and harbors, sailing ships and kings. Perhaps with this lovely introduction, new readers will be drawn to Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, from which this poem is taken. Judith Gloyer, Milwaukee Public Library
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-This colorfully illustrated version of Stevenson's poem is as relevant today as when it was written for A Child's Garden of Verses in 1883. On a rainy day, a small boy constructs a city with building blocks. His imagination soars and his creation soon includes a harbor, mill, palace, and kirk (the illustrator helpfully defines the word "kirk" on the verso of the title page). The couch becomes a mountain range and the carpet an ocean, while a collection of toy people populate his vast domain. Done in colored pencils and gouache in rich, deep colors, the large, clear pictures have a retro feel. The boy's real and imagined towns are both blanketed by dark rain clouds that soon give way to sun and bright blue skies. Demolition appears to be as satisfying as the building process for this youngster: "Now I have done with it,/down let it go!/All in a moment/the town is laid low." Having had enough quiet entertainment for one day, he runs out into the sunshine to join friends, but his imaginary world remains clear in his mind. This enduring poem will charm modern children.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Echoing Ashley Wolff's 1988 approach to Stevenson's poetic tribute to the power of imagination, Kirk begins with neatly drawn scenes of a child in a playroom, assembling large wooden blocks into, "A kirk and a mill and a palace beside, / And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride." All of these acquire grand architectural details and toy-like inhabitants as the pages turn, until at last the narrator declares, "Now I have done with it, down let it go!" In a final twist, the young city-builder is shown running outside, into a well-kept residential neighborhood in which all the houses except his have been transformed into piles of blocks. Not much to choose between the two interpretations, but it's a poem that every child should have an opportunity to know. (Picture book/poetry. 5-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780983642411
  • Publisher: Songbird Publishing LLC
  • Publication date: 4/14/2012
  • Pages: 28
  • Sales rank: 192,954
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Louis  Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850. He spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, but traveled widely in the United States and throughout the South Seas. The author of many novels, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped, The Black Arrow, and Treasure Island, he died in 1894.

Daniel Kirk has written and illustrated numerous books, including Hush, Little Alien; Bigger; Humpty Dumpty; Jack and Jill; Moondogs; and Snow Family. In addition he has illustrated two poetry collections; Go! and Dogs Rule!; and several titles by other authors, namely Chugga Chugga Choo Choo and My Truck Is Stuck by Kevin Lewis, and Hello, Hello! by Miriam Schlein. Kirk lives in New Jersey with his wife, author-illustrator Julia Gordon, and three teenage children.


Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 in Edinburgh. His father was an engineer, the head of a family firm that had constructed most of Scotland's lighthouses, and the family had a comfortable income. Stevenson was an only child and was often ill; as a result, he was much coddled by both his parents and his long-time nurse. The family took frequent trips to southern Europe to escape the cruel Edinburgh winters, trips that, along with his many illnesses, caused Stevenson to miss much of his formal schooling. He entered Edinburgh University in 1867, intending to become an engineer and enter the family business, but he was a desultory, disengaged student and never took a degree. In 1871, Stevenson switched his study to law, a profession which would leave time for his already-budding literary ambitions, and he managed to pass the bar in 1875.

Illness put an end to his legal career before it had even started, and Stevenson spent the next few years traveling in Europe and writing travel essays and literary criticism. In 1876, Stevenson fell in love with Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne, a married American woman more than ten years his senior, and returned with her to London, where he published his first fiction, "The Suicide Club." In 1879, Stevenson set sail for America, apparently in response to a telegram from Fanny, who had returned to California in an attempt to reconcile with her husband. Fanny obtained a divorce and the couple married in 1880, eventually returning to Europe, where they lived for the next several years. Stevenson was by this time beset by terrifying lung hemorrhages that would appear without warning and required months of convalescence in a healthy climate. Despite his periodic illnesses and his peripatetic life, Stevenson completed some of his most enduring works during this period: Treasure Island (1883), A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), Kidnapped (1886), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).

After his father's death and a trip to Edinburgh which he knew would be his last, Stevenson set sail once more for America in 1887 with his wife, mother, and stepson. In 1888, after spending a frigid winter in the Adirondack Mountains, Stevenson chartered a yacht and set sail from California bound for the South Pacific. The Stevensons spent time in Tahiti, Hawaii, Micronesia, and Australia, before settling in Samoa, where Stevenson bought a plantation called Vailima. Though he kept up a vigorous publishing schedule, Stevenson never returned to Europe. He died of a sudden brain hemorrhage on December 3, 1894.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Good To Know

It has been said that Stevenson may well be the inventor of the sleeping bag -- he described a large fleece-lined sack he brought along to sleep in on a journey through France in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

Long John Silver, the one-legged pirate cook in Stevenson's classic Treasure Island, is said to be based on the author's friend William Ernest Henley, whom he met when Henley was in Edinburgh for surgery to save his one good leg from tuberculosis.

Stevenson died in 1894 at Vailima,, his home on the South Pacific island of Upolu, Samoa. He was helping his wife make mayonnaise for dinner when he suffered a fatal stroke.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 13, 1850
    2. Place of Birth:
      Edinburgh, Scotland
    1. Date of Death:
      December 3, 1894
    2. Place of Death:
      Vailima, Samoa

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