On the Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson

This picturebook life of Emily Dickinson is a beautiful and captivating introduction to one of the English-speaking world’s most highly regarded and best-loved poets. Making use of her poems throughout the text, Berne places them to dramatise Dickinson’s internal life as the story unfolds. Simultaneously, of course, she is introducing the reader to poems that are intriguing, mysterious and memorable. The conversational, empathetic, spare narrative makes subtle use of the long dash – in a delightful visual nod to Dickinson’s unique poetic form.

Becca Stadtlander brings a naïve yet surreal quality to the illustrations – a sophisticated choice of style and content – that marries perfectly with the ‘plain’ aesthetic of Dickinson’s poems and the way of life that she embodied. The poems, where they are used in the text, are printed in their own beautiful ‘handwriting’ script. It is called ‘Becca Wings’ and I assume Stadtlander created it especially for this book – to go with her illustrations which feature butterflies and other insects with wings on virtually every page. The design, production values and high quality of paper make this a beautiful object. It is also a book where care has been taken to think of the young audience. There are excellent notes from both author and illustrator on their own work and their thoughts on poetry, with separate pages ‘About Emily’s Poetry’ and ‘Discovering the World of Poetry’ – illuminating at any age, but very valuable at home or in the primary classroom. This is narrative non-fiction at its best.

Book Cover - On the Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson
Publication Date
February 2020