On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson; Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
If we want children to learn about and be inspired by wonderful poets of the past, then there is a need for interesting, accessible and eye-catching books that will demand the attention of young readers. Thanks to Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander, On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson is one such book.
Emily Dickinson was born and raised in New England. As a child she loved to explore and was at one with nature. She loved many things deeply - the birds, the flowers, the bees, her brother, her friends, her books. Young Emily had big feelings towards the things that she loved and these manifested in the most wonderful of words. She would describe thunder and lightning as ‘the fire’, and she described her school friends as ‘a warmth as near as if the sun were shining in your hand’.
Not all of her thoughts were happy though and thoughts of loss and sorrow and the nature of life and death would lead to big questions that needed answering. When the answers to her questions did not come she began seeing things for what they were and this eventually led to poems. Writing allowed her to find her own truth, her own hope, and answers that other people could not give her came out in her own words. Words that would eventually soar on ‘the wings of Emily’s words’.
On Wings of Words is a lovely introduction to the life and works of Emily Dickinson - a person who embraced every small miracle and could see joy and wonder in the smallest of things. With a keen eye for detail, Dickinson observed what most of us miss. The book is a wonderful look at the world through her own unique lens and through poetry extracts we are allowed to view the world as she saw it.
The story of her life is told alongside short exerts of her poetry - each are written in different fonts. The easy to read life story gives readers a fascinating insight into who Emily was and what led to her writing hundreds of poems that were not discovered until after her death. The poetry that features is light, accessible and young readers will no doubt enjoy Dickinson’s open and honest look at the world. Becca Stadtlander’s watercolour illustrations fill the pages with colour and go from historical accuracy to more whimsical scenes that capture the essence of some of Dickinson’s poems. A moonlit house in the snow is contrasted with more playful scenes of Emily riding on a grasshopper, sitting in a pink flower and sprouting butterfly wings. There is lots of bonus material at the back of the book including details on Emily’s poetry, tips on how to discover the world of poetry, further recommended reading and delightful notes from both the author and artist.
A stunning picture book biography and an inspirational read about a person who was at one with herself and through poetry was able to imagine and verbalise a world much bigger than the one in which she confined herself to.
Recommended for 7+.