A warm portrait that even those unfamiliar with the iconic poet will likely enjoy.

The imagined events of one day in the early life of Emily Dickinson foreshadow her future creations.

Yolen sets the stage with an opening caption announcing it’s “spring 1834, Amherst, Massachusetts.” Young Emily, a smiling, round-headed child, takes scraps of paper from beneath her father’s desk, scribbles on them, and tries to share the results. Largely ignored by her father, she finds Mrs. Mack, a friendly woman busy in the kitchen, to be more receptive. Mrs. Mack listens to Emily’s poem “Frog and bog!” and pronounces it “A very good rhyme indeed.” After a trip upstairs to see her mother and baby sister, Emily ventures outside to share her words with the flowers and revel in the beauties of nature. Re-entering the house, Emily finds an envelope that prompts her to start thinking of rhymes again. Line breaks in most sentences and the way the text blocks are placed on the pages give the appearance of poetry. Although relatively lengthy, the text moves along smoothly with plenty of appealing turns of phrase and engaging images. Davenier’s lively illustrations, created with watercolor ink, vary in size and placement. Lightly sketched settings and period details offer some context. The author’s note fills in a few details while acknowledging that little is known about Dickinson’s childhood. The appended poems relate to words and ideas that appear in the story.

A warm portrait that even those unfamiliar with the iconic poet will likely enjoy. (bibliography) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-12808-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020



Natural history from decidedly offbeat angles.

Wielding crayons and broad, inked brushes, a Finnish artist offers freestyle images of 26 wild animals of land and sea.

The free-verse poetic flights (or Jeremiah’s translations) that Järvinen pairs to each of Merz’s animal portraits are technically accurate but sound fanciful: “Here comes the multi-purpose marvel of the jungle, / Elephant and TRUNK!” And: “The bear combs through the ant hill with its big paws / and pops its occupants into his mouth.” Sharing a like disregard for the conventional approach, the art, inspired (as the artist explains) by dim childhood memories rather than actual models, is largely composed of semi-abstract jumbles of geometric shapes and shadowy blobs, disconnected or oddly jointed limbs rendered with a few quick strokes, and scribbles or washes of thin primary hues. The creatures are largely unrecognizable without the printed cues adjacent, but the overall effect is one of lively activity, with occasional surprises, such as a clump of sinuous, scary-looking jellyfish on a vivid blue background—think H.P. Lovecraft à la Henri Matisse—and a trio of polar bears, two of which are pitch black (as polar bears are, beneath their fur), to give viewers pause. Leading questions or suggestions at each poem’s end (“Have you tried walking like a camel?”) will provoke further reactions from fledgling animal lovers. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-24-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

Natural history from decidedly offbeat angles. (Picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63206-268-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Yonder

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020


Slight but evocative.

A poetic envoy from the Voyager 2 probe as it leaves our solar system for the vast deeps of interstellar space.

“Behind me, Earth. // Ahead of me lies the night.” In lines so terse that twin probe Voyager 1 goes unmentioned until his (somewhat) more expansive afterword, Decalf recalls his personified spacecraft’s assembly, launch, and flybys of all four outer planets on the way to the stars—bearing a golden disk of “images from Earth, and some melodies” in hopes of “an encounter, perhaps, / at the edge of night. // With some new friends?” Early scenes of silhouetted human watchers and workers quickly give way to starry backdrops in which, except for planets flashing by, the small knot of instruments and antennas floats, recedes, and at last appears as a shadow against a swirling nebula. Though sandwiched between schematic views of the solar system and of Voyager’s course, this work—translated from French by the author—has little to offer readers curious about the actual mission or its achievements, not to mention the contents of that recorded message, until the quick summary at the end. But some sense of outer space’s immensity and loneliness does come through. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Slight but evocative. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5602-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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