Just this week, author-illustrator Sergio Ruzzier shared at his site “Helpful Books for Disturbing Times.” He wrote:

Here is a small selection of children’s books that I personally find helpful and
perhaps hope-inducing without trying to hammer a moral lesson into your head,
which could be not only painful but counter-productive.

Just last week at this time, given the election results, I wasn’t at all in the mood for lists like this. But not only do I like the way Ruzzier frames this here; I also think I’m inching toward being in a place where I’m not just angry and depressed about the notion of a Trump presidency, but I’m also ready to do my part to make my voice of discontent heard with things like additional volunteer work and donations to causes I support. And Ruzzier’s list, which includes the likes of Arnold Lobel and Tomi Ungerer, is a good one for when you’re needing some inspiration.

Another book I turned to for solace this week is Emily Dickinson, the first in a new series called Poetry for Kids from MoonDance Press. It’s a selection of poetry by Emily Dickinson, edited by Susan Snively and illustrated by Christine Davenier. Now, when I first heard about this series, I confused it with one I remember using often during my days as a school librarian – the illustrated Poetry for Young People series, which I believe is published by Sterling. I’m unsure if that series is still published, and Sterling’s site is under construction or I would confirm that. I think they published a title as recently as two years ago, so it is possible new titles are still being released. It’s a wonderful series.

MoonDance’s Poetry for Kids is promising as well. For this collection of Dickinson’s poetry, Snively—who directed the Writing Center at Amherst College for 27 years; who has written a novel about Dickinson; who taught at Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Amherst; and who is a guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum—provides an introduction, as well as a “What Emily Was Thinking” closing to the book. The very title of the latter alone may make some poets twitchy, but it’s merely one or two lines for each poem in this book, Snively gently guiding young minds who may want some food-for-thought about the poems therein.

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The book itself, which features over 30 of Dickinson’s poems, is organized by season – Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. A majority of the poems are nature-centric: There are poems about crickets, spiders, gardens, bees. But many of the other poems strike a more contemplative tone – from “I’m nobody! Who are you?” to “There’s a certain slant of light.” Some poems, such as the latter, are iconic. Others are lesser-known. Many of the poems have in small print at the bottom of the page the meanings of more complex words that appear; many are definitions, but a few help interpret Dickinson’s meaning (such as, a note about “imperial affliction” in “There’s a certain slant of light”). It seems, though I am hardly an expert in Dickinson’s poetry, that Snively also makes some punctuation changes in some of the poems (as you can see in the one that closes this piece).

11.18 Interior

French illustrator Christine Davenier provides energetic and fluid watercolors for these poems. Nature is never quite still in her version of Emily’s world with its flowing grasses, swirling clouds, and beams of light on a household cat. Her palette is one of primarily cool blues, greens, and rust colors.

It’s a solidly good book in a promising new series – and one I was happy to stumble upon this week, as Dickinson is so much balm for one’s soul. Now that I’m ready for some inspiration, it’s always good to be reminded of Emily’s version of it:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,  
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.


Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

EMILY DICKINSON. Original text © 2016 Susan Snively. Illustrations copyright © 2016 Christine Davenier. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher, MoonDance Press, California.