With Jeanette Winter‘s Biblioburro selected as one of our new 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set, I have had a great time exploring more of her work. One little book that has delighted me is Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World (Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)
It tells the story of the poet’s life through her sister, and begins with, “My sister Emily was buried today.” We are shown Emily’s room, and get a glimpse of her reclusive lifestyle – and then, in the course of the up to now rather sad narration, make the wonderful discovery alongside the sister, of the drawers full of poetry that nobody knew about while Emily was alive. Beginning with “This is my letter to the world”, it is a delightful way for young readers to be introduced to her poetry ,both for the poems themselves and their context.
The final two thirds of the book are given over to extracts from Dickinson’s poetry, ending with her sister’s avowal that “the world will read your letter – your poems.” And the whole book is a treat for anyone who loves Jeanette Winter’s illustrations. The poet’s voice is emphasised, with Emily Dickinson in her trademark white dress depicted in some way on almost every page.
Here’s the whole of one of those special poems:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.