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My Uncle Emily Hardcover – May 14, 2009

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel; First Edition edition (May 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399240055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399240058
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.5 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,019,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This picture book in free verse centers around Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant.” Yolen bases her story on true events in the life of the reclusive poet, who doted on her nephews next door in Amherst, Massachusetts, and joked that they should call her “Uncle.” Gilbert, six, describes how Uncle Emily gives him a dead bee and a poem to take to his teacher. After the teacher reads the poem to the class, no one understands it, and in the schoolyard, Gil fights a bully for calling Uncle a name. At home, the wounded Gil doesn’t fully explain why he is limping, but Uncle Emily helps him find a way to tell the tale, “so it comes around to the truth at last.” Carpenter’s clear, digitally touched pen-and-ink pictures show the classroom and playground drama, and then the warm, close family, all in period detail. After listening to the story, kids may want to hear the poem, printed in full at the back, and to talk about what it means. Grades K-3. --Hazel Rochman


"Yolen is a master of word craft and the story is beautifully told in short, rhythmic lines that read like free verse." --School Library Journal, starred review

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Uncle Emily gave Gib a poem and a bee to give to his teacher, Mrs. Howland. It was kind of a strange thing to send to a teacher, but he understood his uncle. She wasn't really an uncle, but the family called her that. "The `uncle' was a joke in [their] family." She and Thomas Gilbert Dickenson had a very special relationship and they understood each other very well. His aunt was pretty and always wore long white dresses and wrote all kinds of poems, poems she took very seriously. He was worried about taking the poem to school because someone might make fun of him or his Uncle Emily. It was a bit upsetting, but he was going to have to do it.

The Bumble Bee's Religion -
His little Hearse-like Figure
Unto itself a Dirge
To a delusive Lilac . . .

Mrs. Howland read the whole poem in school, but no one else understood it any better than Gib did. Jonathan came after him at recess and yelled out to him about his Uncle Emily. "She is a peculiar old maid and a reckless . . . " That did it. The boys got into a fight. When he got home, he would be in trouble. What would his Uncle Emily have to say about it?

I was really taken with this story and got a feel for Emily Dickenson that I never had before (this story is loosely based on her life). The art work is very quaint, old fashioned looking and quite appealing. The text is very soothing and poetic and the story instantly grabs the reader insisting he or she rush to the end to find out what Uncle Emily has to say about the fight. In the back of the book there is a page that tells "what is true" about the story. If you want a quality book about an amazing woman, this one certainly won't disappoint you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What a find! This gem of a book, which is written in verse, is not only beautifully-illustrated, but is loosely based on the life of poet Emily Dickinson, who spent her life in seclusion, opening up only to select family members. It also explores the relationship between the poet and her nephew, Gilbert. Emily was known as Uncle Emily to Gilbert aka Gib, a six-year-old boy who is given a poem and a dead bee one day with instructions to take the poem to his teacher at school. Gib finds himself confused by the poem about the bee, enigmatically titled "The Bumble Bee's Religion". When one of his schoolmates teases Gib about his Uncle Emily, Gib fights back, and refuses to divulge the truth to his family when he returns home with a limp. It is only later, when Emily gently asks him to tell the truth, that Gib confides the real story.

There is much to learn from this amazing book - the strong affection and genuine bond between "Uncle" Emily and her nephew Gib, the affinity with nature, the importance of settling disputes with words rather than violence, the great value placed on truth...such treasures to be discovered amongst these pages. Truly a great find, and a must-read for children and adults. I cried when I read this book, and my preschooler loved it too [though I did have to simplify and explain quite a bit]. Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Barker on June 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Never judge a book by its cover surely applies here. Uncle Emily??? Absolutely LOVED this book and the kids will have to borrow it from me. Read it and read it again and each time get something new from it, inviting your children to see that, as with books, there is more than what first appears when it comes to people, poetry and the truth.
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More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

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