“There is no frigate like a book To take us lands away, Nor any coursers like a page Of prancing poetry.” Emily Dickinson
Poetry is an often overlooked genre in homeschool literature and in children’s literature in general. One of my favorite collections is the Poetry for Young People series published by Sterling Children’s Books. Originally copyrighted in 1994, their 2014 editions now include no less than twenty-two well-known poets to learn about. I have chosen Emily Dickinson because there are a number of excellent fiction and non-fiction resources readily available to create a beautiful family unit study.
The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires is told by the character of “Emmaline”, a mouse who has taken up residence in Emily’s room. Through an exchange of poems between herself and Emily Dickinson, we learn about events in Emily’s life, and develop a picture of her as a person. This book is an excellent read aloud for ages six and up, although I would say my upper elementary aged kids have appreciated it the most.
Author Eileen Spinelli’s Another Day as Emily is a fun read for fourth through sixth graders- especially for girls with younger brothers! Written in non-rhyming poetry it is a way to demonstrate that not all poems need to rhyme. Also, it’s short enough to assign as an independent read on top of other programs.
For preschoolers and lower elementary students my first choice in picture books would be Marty Rhodes Figley’s Emily and Carlo. Carlo was Emily’s Newfoundland, and her constant companion as she explored the meadows around her New England home. One other picture book about this well-known poet is Michael Bedard’s Emily, which takes the perspective of a little girl who lives on her street.
Jane Yolen writes in couplets, taking the voices of Emily, and others in her life in The Emily Sonnets: The Life of Emily Dickinson. All of the books provide historical information and could be utilized to gather facts for a biographical assignment. Poetry for Young People’s Emily Dickinson provides definitions of less familiar words used in her poems and makes an excellent framework for the other titles.
Bedard, Michael (1992). Emily. New York, New York: Doubleday Book for Young Readers.
Bolin, Frances Schoonmaker (editor)(2014). Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson. New York, NY: 2014
Figley, Marty Rhodes (2012). Emily and Carlo. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Spinelli, Eileen (2015). Another Day as Emily. New York, NY: Yearling.
Spires, Elizabeth (1999). The Mouse of Amherst. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Yolen, Jane (2012). The Emily Sonnets. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.