The Mouse of Amherst: A Tale of Young Readers (Paperback)
A mouse's-eye-view of Emily Dickinson
When a mouse named Emmaline takes up residence behind the wainscoting of Emily Dickinson's bedroom, she wonders what it is that keeps Emily scribbling at her writing table throughout the day and into the night. Emmaline sneaks a look, and finds that it's poetry! Inspired, Emmaline writes her own first poem and secretly deposits it on Emily's desk. Emily answers with another poem, and a lively exchange begins. In this charming and fanciful introduction to Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Spires demonstrates the power of poetry to express our deepest feelings, while Claire A. Nivola's delicate pencil drawings capture the intricacies of life in Emily's world. Included are eight of Dickinson's most loved poems, with seven corresponding poems by Emmaline that are sure to bring out the poet in any child.
I was born in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1952 and grew up nearby in Circleville. By the time I was twelve, I had decided to be a writer. My plan (influenced by my admiration for Flannery O’Connor) was to become a short story writer. For some reason, that never happened. Instead, in college at Vassar, I began writing poetry seriously. This has led to my publishing four collections of poetry for adults (Globe, Swan’s Island, Annonciade, and Worldling). My daughter, Celia, who is seven, defined poetry one day (very appropriately, I thought) as “playing with words.” I have “played with words,” I believe, in my writing for children: in two books of riddles, With One White Wing and Riddle Road, and, of course, in The Mouse of Amherst. Ever since I was a girl, I have admired and loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry. I have memorized many of her poems, and recently wrote a short piece on my first encounter with Dickinson for The Bulletin of the Poetry Society of America. Although I didn’t analyze my reasons for writing The Mouse of Amherst while I was writing it, I think now that I wanted to express the depth and complexity of poetic inspiration, friendship, and apprenticeship. That’s thinking of it purely in adult terms. But I hope children will identify with Emmaline, the novice poet, and perhaps be inspired to write some poems themselves . . . for no reason other than the sheer joy of expressing themselves when they feel an emotion or idea bubbling up inside them. Ideally, I hope my writing for children will lead them somewhere they have never been imaginatively, and that it will help them believe and delight in the power of words and language! Elizabeth Spires' work includes The Mouse of Amherst (1999), A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the year, I Am Arachne (2001), and her latest novel, I Heard God Talking to Me (2009)
Claire A. Nivola has written and illustrated many books for children, including Life in the Ocean, which received three starred reviews. She is also the author of Planting the Trees of Kenya, a picture book about Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. She lives with her husband in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.
“A mouse becomes the perfect poetic companion to the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson in this heartfelt daydream from Spires.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Filled with ardency and wit.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly
“A sweetly written invitation to view life as more than crumb gathering and cheese nibbling.” —The New York Times Book Review
“When the small mouse Emmaline moves into the Dickinson household, she accidentally reads some scraps of verse penned by Emily. Reading poems inspires the rodent to write her own lines on the back of Emily's paper, and to leave it for the poet to find. Thus the two become 'pen pals'...This diminutive little book, with its shy black-and-white line drawings and amusing plot, is an idel introduction to Dickinson's poetry. It's also a strong advocate for the power of the written word.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Emmaline's newfound enthusiasm and interpretations of Dickinson's poetry will likely coinside with reader's own responses. A brief afterword with biographical information explains just how this clever novel unmasks the 'mouse.'” —Starred, Publishers Weekly