I’d planned to feature two new picture book biographies about Emily Dickinson today, before the pandemic upended the normalcy of most of our lives. Thankfully, I picked up one of these before our local library closed, and I have a copy of the other one.
May you find plenty of poetry on your bookshelves or via internet sources to bolster your spirits during this time of crisis! Stay healthy, stay home, and read!
Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Christine Davenier
Publisher/Date: Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Company/2020)
Themes: Emily Dickinson, poetry, nature, writing
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Jane Yolen’s Emily Writes is an imagined and evocative picture book account of Emily Dickinson’s childhood poetic beginnings, featuring illustrations by Christine Davenier.
As a young girl, Emily Dickinson loved to scribble curlicues and circles, imagine new rhymes, and connect with the natural world around her. The sounds, sights, and smells of home swirled through her mind, and Emily began to explore writing and rhyming her thoughts and impressions. She thinks about the real and the unreal. Perhaps poems are the in-between.
This thoughtful spotlight on Emily’s early experimentations with poetry offers a unique window into one of the world’s most famous and influential poets.
Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.
On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson
Author: Jennifer Berne
Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander
Publisher/date: Chronicle Books/2020
Themes: Emily Dickinson, biography, poetry, nature, writing
Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):
An inspiring and kid-accessible biography of one of the world’s most famous poets.
Emily Dickinson, who famously wrote “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” is brought to life in this moving story. In a small New England town lives Emily Dickinson, a girl in love with small things—a flower petal, a bird, a ray of light, a word. In those small things, her brilliant imagination can see the wide world—and in her words, she takes wing. From celebrated children’s author Jennifer Berne comes a lyrical and lovely account of the life of Emily Dickinson: her courage, her faith, and her gift to the world. With Dickinson’s own inimitable poetry woven throughout, this lyrical biography is not just a tale of prodigious talent, but also of the power we have to transform ourselves and to reach one another when we speak from the soul.
Read a starred review at Shelf Awareness for Readers and read an interview with Berne at Kidlit411 (which is how I received a copy of this book. Thank you!).
I paired these books because they explore the life and writings of Emily Dickinson. In Emily Writes, Yolen explores Emily’s early childhood and envisions Emily creating scribbled poetry before she could form letters or words. On Wings of Words is a cradle-to-grave biography with Emily’s poetry woven into the narrative. Read together, these new picture books provide greater appreciation and understanding of the genius that is Emily Dickinson. Author’s Notes and other back matter in each book provide greater context about the life and writings of this iconic poet.
Looking for similar reads? See My Uncle Emily, by Jane Yolen.