Matthew Burgess has written a beautiful book that takes young readers into the fascinating life and works of E. E. Cummings.
Edward Estlin Cummings was born on October 14th 1984 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He grew-up in a house full of people and pets. Estlin loved looking at the world around him, particularly nature, and inspired by the birds outside his window he uttered his first poem at just three years old. From this moment on, Estlin would often come up with short poems and his mother would record them in a special book. Estlin had a wonderful way with words and loved to invent new ones, ‘whash-ho-zephyr’ just one of his many imaginations.
Estlin loved time alone, he would sit in the treehouse that his father had built for him where he would draw pictures and write poems. These were the foundations that led to a life in poetry that would see his poems published and a seven year series of poetry readings. Estlin’s poems broke many poetry conventions at the time - he scattered words and letters around the page, used punctuation in non-conventional ways and had a fascination for lower case letters. His poetry divided opinion and not everyone was a fan of his works, they felt that they were too strange, but Estlin remained true to himself and over time he became one of America’s most beloved poets.
This is a wonderful biographical story about a boy who loved words and drawing. The gentle story has a lovely flow to it and it is very easy to get drawn into Estlin’s wonderfully playful world. Estlin’s poems, that are woven into the narrative, show readers that poems do not need to be complicated or long and laborious, they can simply be observations about the world around you. After reading the fascinating story of Edward Estlin Cummings, many children will be inspired to create their own works.
The book is illustrated throughout by Kris Di Giacomo and like the narrative, the illustrations are gentle and light. Words and letters seamlessly flit amongst the artwork and the use of different fonts is a masterstroke. A detailed timeline features at the back of the book as well as a detailed author’s note. Poems that feature throughout the book are also rewritten collectively over a double page spread.
E. E. Cummings was creatively wonderful and wonderfully creative, and Matthew Burgess has written a beautiful book to introduce children to the life and works of someone who thought outside the box and had the courage and determination to stay true to himself.
Recommend for 9+.