Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Emily Dickinson: A Biography

Emily Dickinson: A Biography

Milton Meltzer
For ages 12 and up
Lerner, 2005   ISBN: 978-0761329497

Born in Amherst Massachusetts in 1830, just fifty odd years after the birth of the nation, Emily Dickinson was the daughter of prosperous Edward Dickinson, a well respected lawyer who played several important roles in his town. Edward strongly believed in educating both his son and his two daughters and Emily got an excellent education and did very well at the Amherst Academy. Indeed she did so well - writing compositions which her teachers greatly admired – that her father agreed to send her to college. So at the age of seventeen Emily went to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Unfortunately Emily was not able to complete her education at Mount Holyoke because her health was frail.

Emily was happiest living in her family home and rarely left it after her time in college except once to visit her father and relatives in Washington and Philadelphia and several times to see doctors in Boston.

After she left college Emily was given a book of poems as a gift and the friend who gave her the book encouraged her to work on her own writing. It was the beginning of an extraordinary voyage for Emily. She had been writing poems since she was a girl but now she stretched her writing muscles in new ways. She began to write a great deal, collecting her un-named poems in little books which she sewed together with needle and thread herself.

Most of the poems were never seen by others and the little books were only discovered by Emily’s sister Vinnie after Emily died. Emily did send some of her closest friends a few of her poems in letters that she wrote them, and sometimes these friends would submit her poems for publication anonymously. Occasionally they would beg Emily to put together a collection of her poems for publication in book form but she would always refuse. It was only after she had died that her poems were sorted and published. When the collection was released to the public is caused a sensation and today Emily Dickinson is recognized as one of America’s greatest poets.

This well written book in the “American Literary Greats” series provides readers with a comprehensive picture of what Emily Dickinson’s life was like. Because she tended to be somewhat reclusive, many stories have arisen about Emily. This book sets the myths to rest and lets the real Emily tell her story. Best of all the author uses her poems freely to show readers what Emily was really like. Her poems truly give us her voice show us how skilled and extraordinary she was.