I have unintentionally read three books about Emily Dickinson, only one of which did I realize was going to feature the late poet. It’s easy to become enamoured with Emily Dickinson, reclusive, poignant word artist. Here they are in order of youngest to oldest readers: picture book, middle grade and young adult.
Jane Yolen has written several sonnets, The Emily Sonnets: The Life of Emily Dickinson, giving us insight into Emily’s family, solitude and faith. She advises us to “inhale the poems beyond her death”. Complemented by Gary Kelley‘s shadowy oil paintings, this is a poetic biography with comprehensive notes in the backmatter.
Eileen Spinelli‘s Another Day As Emily is a light-hearted story of a mostly unnoticed tween in the wake of her baby brother’s heroism. As she learns more about Emily Dickinson, she tries to emulate her by wearing a white dress, never leaving the house (even in mid-summer vacation) and trying to correspond with friends via letters in baskets.
Jenny Hubbard‘s And We Stay is more layered, with a lead character named Emily who writes poems throughout her narrative, trying to overcome her past. She tends to be reclusive, just as Emily Dickinson was, and references to the poet are both obvious (she reads a biography) and more subtle (she hides her poetry and doesn’t care about publication). Like Paper Covers Rock, And We Stay is set at a boarding school, though this time it’s with teenage girls in the Nineties, as opposed to boys in the Eighties. I learned Emily Dickinson didn’t title her poems, she numbered them. I learned she was stronger than she seemed, and I learned that she inspires great contemporary literature.