Meghan Markle has written a book for children. Of course she has. There is no celeb, no matter how busy, who doesn’t have a children’s book in them, because children’s books, you might think if you didn’t know better, don’t need plot or character or much in the way of style. It was either that, or a cookbook.
The Bench, for that is the name, is based apparently on a poem Meghan wrote for her husband for father’s day, a month after little Archie was born. Because that’s what you do with a small baby, isn’t it… you write a poem. It’s short, it would seem, but then William Nicholson’s wonderful, illustrated book, Clever Bill, which Maurice Sendak thought a masterpiece, had fewer than a hundred words. Brevity isn’t a problem in a book for children.
There are only a few excerpts of Meghan’s book available, illustrated with watercolours by one Christian Robinson. The Duchess reportedly wanted to tell the story through an 'inclusive lens' and put an emphasis on diversity. The caption to the picture of a red-headed soldier (with US army cap) holding his son up while a woman at the window looks on, is: ‘This is your bench, Where life begins, For you and our son our baby, our kin.’
Mmm. Our son and our baby… our kin? Bit redundant, not to say odd. And the ‘you and our son our baby’ is a mouthful. But on we go:
“‘Looking out at my love / and our beautiful boy, And here in the window / I’ll have tears of great joy.’
Let’s not worry about the syntax without knowing what comes before, but the ‘And’ is clumsy and redundant, and the poet’s iron determination to get a rhyme out of boy and joy is notable. It’s pretty good rubbish, no? As a private poem from a mother to a father, it may be terrifically affecting but I’m not sure these sentiments aren’t better kept to the couple concerned.
On a later page, where a little black boy rests on his father, we learn that
“‘From here you will rest / See the growth of our boy.’
Meghan is getting her money’s worth out of words that rhyme with boy, but I think we get the gist: on this wooden bench, a boy sits or lies or larks around with his father, sensitively observed by the mother. I am sure Thomas Markle will appreciate this tender parental relationship, given that his grown-up daughter hasn’t had much time for him in the last couple of years, but I expect it’ll be the template for an equally affecting poem about grandmothers, mothers and daughters when Meghan’s baby girl is born.
Usefully, for those who need a steer when it comes to reacting to poetry, even a poem for children, the publishers (Random House Children’s Books) observe: ‘Evoking a deep sense of warmth, connection and compassion, The Bench gives readers a window into shared and enduring moments between a diverse group of fathers and sons.’ Oh and the press release describes the Duchess as a ‘mother, wife, feminist, and activist’ who ‘currently resides in her home state of California with her family, two dogs and a growing flock of rescue chickens.’ Don’t you love the regal ‘reside’?
Two things. No, make that three. The book is going to be atrocious; you can tell on the basis of about 20 words. And it won’t matter. It’ll be given plugs from Meghan’s celebrity mates and it’ll be cue for endless guff about the father-son bond, though perhaps that bit wasn’t really thought through either, because it might involve Archie’s dad reflecting on his own relationship with his father – whom he pretty well trashed in his interview with Oprah Winfrey. Chiefly though, it will give Meghan another string to her bow. As well as describing herself as feminist, mother and activist, she can now add the job description ‘author’ to the list.
Doesn’t it make you pine for Sarah Ferguson and Budgie the Little Helicopter?