Usually on Fridays I post reviews of poetry book collections, rather than reviews of books that contain one poem. Today I am going to make an exception because the poem is so timeless and the way it is presented is to powerful and beautiful. The poem is If by Rudyard Kipling and this is a book that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Illustrated by Giovanni Manna
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 8 and up
Creative Editions, 2014, 978-1-56846-259-2
What parent does not want his or her child to be happy in life, and to reach his or her full potential? This is the wish of millions of parents all over the world, and has been the wish of parents long gone for children who are also long gone. Rudyard Kipling was just such a parent. He wanted so much for his only son, John, and he also had many aspirations for him.
When John was only twelve years old his father wrote a poem called If in which he offers advice and encouragement to his boy, advice which he hopes will help John grow up so that “the Earth and everything in it” would be John’s, and he would be “a Man.”
The advice offered in the poem is universal in nature and if readers are truly listening, they will find that the poem speaks to them, no matter how old they are. It does not matter if you are a student, a parent, or a grandparent, Kipling’s words will resonate with you and give you cause to reflect.
Throughout the poem the word “If” appears, a constant reminder that we are in control, that we can choose what we do. “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” and “if you can wait and not be tired by waiting” then you will come to a place where all things are possible. “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,” and “watch the things you gave life to, broken, / And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools” then you will prevail. Again and again we are reminded to be true to ourselves and to let the words of naysayers and critics pass us by.
Throughout the book Kipling’s powerful words are accompanied by beautiful, emotive watercolor illustrations.