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.---from the publisher
40 pages 978-1250128089 Ages 4-8
Keywords: biography, author, poetry, poet, nature, creative writing, creative process, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old, Language Arts Curriculum
“‘Frog and bog,’ Emily repeats,
licking each word.
They taste as sweet as the honey
the bee bears away.
The frog poem sounds even better this time.
Then Emily goes downstairs quietly
so as not to annoy Mother,
who makes her feel rainy.
Out she heads into the spring garden,
for she has not told her poem to the flowers, yet.
There are roses still curled in their buds,
seas of daffodils,
small presents of crocuses.
The garden makes her feel all sunny,
like a poet.”
I received a memorable introduction to Emily Dickinson, in junior high, in the late 1960s. It was courtesy of a performing arts curriculum enrichment (PACE) program that brought performers into our township’s public schools. So it was that I experienced actress Julie Harris on our auditorium stage, reciting Dickinson poetry. This was nearly a decade before Harris brought the Dickinson role to Broadway, starring in “The Belle of Amherst,” a one-woman play for which she won a Tony Award.
In EMILY WRITES: EMILY DICKINSON AND HER POETIC BEGINNINGS, author and poet Jane Yolen utilizes scattered clues we have about Emily Dickinson’s early years to imagine a lyrical afternoon’s tale about four-year-old Emily playing with and delighting over language. “Frog” and “bog,” of course, are a pair of the words in one of Dickinson’s most popular poems, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”
“She thinks about the real and the unreal.
Perhaps poems are the in-between,
just as she is in between Austin and Vinnie.”
Seeing young Emily creating and sharing a simple three-word poem, and musing about the nature of poetry, will undoubtedly inspire some of today’s young lovers of words to try cultivating their own poetic seedlings.
What I particularly like about Christine Davenier’s eye-catching multimedia illustrations are the expressive looks on young Emily’s face. Page after page, they bring this character to life.
The story is followed by an extensive author’s note that explains how Dickinson, little-known in her lifetime, came to be “America’s most famous female poet.”
The book concludes with several snippets of Dickinson poetry that relate to the story.
Regardless of whether or not a particular young person grasps the historical and biographical context of the story, EMILY WRITES will enchant and stimulate young imaginations.
And remember, teachers and librarians: For many, like me back in junior high, listening to poetry well-recited is a memorable experience. Think about memorizing a few pieces to share with students.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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