cover image Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings

Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings

Jane Yolen, illus. by Christine Davenier. Holt/Ottaviano, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-12808-9

Yolen and Davenier portray Dickinson as a small child who “tiptoes into Father’s study,/ being quiet as dust” and finds “a scrap of paper” and a “gnawed pencil stub, too... Perhaps, she thinks, I will make a poem.” Historical details—her siblings, Lavinia and Austin; her mother’s illness (“Mother,/ who makes her feel rainy”); her father’s emotional distance—add ballast to the imagined account. Most delightful is Mrs. Mack, of the family that bought the Dickinson family house and lived in it while the Dickinsons rented rooms. Yolen’s Mrs. Mack encourages Emily: “Hope, my dear girl,/ That’s the best rhyme for envelope. Though in a pinch you might try cope or lope.” Though an author’s note suggests that not much is actually known of Dickinson’s childhood, nor of her relationship with Mrs. Mack, Yolen conjures appealing possibilities. Davenier’s loose-lined, color-washed ink illustrations capture childlike joy and curiosity. Ages 4–8. [em](Feb.) [/em]