Monday, February 17, 2014

A Home for Mr. Emerson

A Home for Mr. Emerson. Barbara Kerley. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 2014. Scholastic. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
 More than anywhere else, Ralph Waldo Emerson loved his home in Concord, Massachusetts. As a boy, he'd moved with his family again and again as they struggled to make ends meet. He wandered the narrow, noisy streets of Boston, dreaming of "a home, comfortable and pleasant." He longed to live amid broad, open fields and deep, still woods--in a place he could make his own. In college, he still dreamed of fields and woods and home. But by his junior year in 1820, he also found new things to love: reading stacks of books, discussing them with friends, and recording "new thoughts" in a journal. He named his journal The Wide World. His thoughts took him everywhere. And when he finished school and set out on his own, he wondered: Could he build a life around these things he loved?
I definitely enjoyed reading Barbara Kerley's picture book biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The end papers share lovely thought-provoking quotes. And the richness of the quotes continue throughout the text. Kerley pulls in many quotes and provides readers with sources for each one. But the quotes never weigh down the text, the text remains lively and inviting--just what a nonfiction book should offer young people. The book celebrates more than a life, it celebrates a community and a lifestyle. One of my favorite things about this one was how it celebrated reading and writing and learning. I also liked that it covers many decades. Readers see him first as a young boy and student and then as an old man. I liked the continuity of it: how his love of community and learning remained strong and passionate throughout his life.

I found the author's note fascinating. It shares many things that the text does not. For example, it mentions the loss of his first wife (the book only mentions his second wife, and fails to mention the fact that she's a second) and the loss of his first child, Waldo. I also liked the list of suggested activities.

The illustrations are very distinctive. I liked that they were recognizable. I immediately thought of Those Rebels John & Tom, The Extraordinary Mark Twain, and What To Do About Alice.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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