In this superb narrative picture book biography author Jennifer Berne weaves together for young readers, the life of poet Emily Dickinson and excerpts from her poetry. Complementing this are Becca Stadtlander’s beautiful, detailed gouache and watercolour paintings, first of the child Emily to whom ‘every bird, every flower, every bee or breeze or slant of light seemed to speak’; who explored the world around her with her eyes, ears and thoughts, then found ‘new words for everything she was discovering’.
We’re given glimpses of Emily’s childhood with her beloved older brother Austin; with her school friends and as she becomes a mature young woman with ‘The strongest friends of the soul’ books that she read in the sanctuary of her own room.
Such are the power of the words and illustrations that it’s almost impossible not to share her intensity of feelings towards all these things, as well as to share in her search for answers to the sorrows of life.
Eventually all these feelings poured forth as poems that arose deep within herself, soothing her sadness, giving her strength and the freedom of her imagination. While her inner world grew though, Emily’s outer world shrank more and more as she wrote hundreds and hundreds of wonderful poems, that her sister only discovered after Emily’s death.
The frequent appearance of butterflies in the illustrations serve as an inspired symbol of how Emily’s words, like her sprit, transcend all else in this reverential rendering of a poet whose words continue to touch the hearts and minds of countless poetry lovers the world over. JB