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ON WINGS OF WORDS by Jennifer Berne Kirkus Star


The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson

by Jennifer Berne ; illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4521-4297-5
Publisher: Chronicle Books

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.


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