ON WINGS OF WORDS

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON

A biographical introduction to the unusual life of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson.

An inquisitive child who explored “every bird, every flower, every bee or breeze or slant of light,” Emily adored her brother and enjoyed her school friends, experienced intense feelings, thoughts, and desires, and loved reading, which felt like traveling “on a sea of words.” When people failed to answer her existential questions, Emily put “faith in what she could see and understand.” Gradually, her thoughts and feelings emerged as poems that set her free and allowed her to dwell in an inner world “bigger than all the world outside.” Continuing to enjoy her gardens, dog, family, select friends, and neighborhood children, the adult Emily rarely left her room, where she wrote and hid hundreds of amazing poems discovered after her death in 1886. Adroitly incorporating language and imagery from Dickinson’s poems as well as whole lines and stanzas, the neatly hand-lettered, lyrical text appropriately focuses on how Emily’s rich inner life crystallized into her remarkable poetry. Splendid illustrations combine both folk-art and surrealist styles to contrast Emily’s limited physical journey from sensitive child to reclusive poet within the confines of her family home with imaginative scenes of her limitless inner life showcasing visual images from her poems. Inspired use of the butterfly motif captures the poet’s enigmatic spirit.

Stunning. (notes on Dickinson and poetry, author’s note, artist’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-4297-5

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

BASKETBALL DREAMS

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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