The first book in Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairies series contains poems which celebrate the annual rejuvenilation of the World in spring. Spring of course is the blossoming time of the year and I suspect Cicely Mary Barker may have opted to create a collection of poetry on the flowers of this season without having had in mind the idea of going on to create a series. Her delicate illustrations are well loved, a seamless collation of realism - derived from an astonishing botanical and anatomical expertise - and fantasy. The latter is of the purest kind: childish.
The premise of this book is the joy of spring. This joy is unwavering throughout the book, from the coming and advent of spring, witnessed by the arly bloomers, through to when "[t]he Spring and Summer meet", the time marked by the appearance of the mays. There is an obvious focus on children, spring a natural choice for its representation, nascent, exuberant and brimming with imagination. In despite of their unmistakable fairylandish garbs, these fairies are drawn as real children. The poems emulate childish preoccupation and sentiment. Each poem was designed to be printed to face its respective illustration on small pages, conjuring a small window - something resembling a child's view - into the world of wonder that is very real indeed. Frederick Warne has modernized the book every bit as sensitively as they have been the Tales of Beatrix Potter; the book benefits, in a rare instance, from advances in publishing technology fully. The artistry of Cicely Mary Barker's original vision is in no way sacrificed, or even compromised, but rather enriched.
In the light of how polished her poetry is in this collection, it would seem that Cicely Mary Barker must have been well trained in the art by the time she wrote her first Flower Fairies book. The poems evoke a mood or whim of childhood metrically and structurally as well as semantically. There are often a remarkable economy of words, a simplicity of meaning as well as syntax and an ease of diction. The imageries are at once simple and profound. There is no pretension yet profusion of vision; the whole is an example of that complex art that skillfully present a view that is looked at through an eye that is undeniably a child's. Spring has universally been seen by poets as the season of youth, but not always has the notion been preferred with an air so unconsidered and elaborated with a bearing so unsophisticated. If you liked A.A. Milne's Christopher Robin books because of Christopher Robin and not Pooh bear (if the stuffed toys took you more than the protagonist, then you probably have always preferred Disney's incarnation of the original work anyway), you would almost definitely like "Flower Fairies of the Spring". In many ways these poems are just a feminine version of those stories and poems about Christopher Robin.