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The Mouse of Amherst Hardcover – March 26, 1999

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I am a mouse, a white mouse. My name is Emmaline. Before I met Emily, the great poet of Amherst, I was nothing more than a crumb gatherer, a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose. There was an emptiness in my life that nothing seemed to fill."

That is, until Emmaline the mouse takes up residence in the wall of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson's room in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emmaline spends her days happily observing the reclusive poet: "She seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at once, fluttering through the house like a ghost, stirring up a batch of gingerbread in the kitchen, or walking in the garden, lost in a reverie." The mouse's life changes when a gust of wind blows one of Emily's poems her way. She blushes as she reads Emily's evocative words that so aptly capture her own feelings, and from then on is determined to be a poet herself. The exchange of poems between the two species of poet is truly marvelous, as eight of Emily Dickinson's poems are answered by seven of author Elizabeth Spires's (an award-winning poet herself). "I'm Nobody! Who are you? / Are you--Nobody--too? / Then there's a pair of us! / Don't tell! they'd banish us--you know!" is followed by Emmaline's "It matters what we think, / What words we put in ink, / It matters what we feel / What feelings we conceal." A near miss with the family cat, an unpleasant interlude with a thick-headed editor, and even a threatening stoat keep the story moving, but the real excitement lies in the deepening friendship between Emily and Emmaline... and in Spires's inventive portrayal of the process of self-expression and the power of words. Along the way, illustrator Claire A. Nivola's sweetly skritchy sketches reflect the shy demeanor of both Emily and Emmaline. A brief portrait of Emily Dickinson concludes the book, but readers will come away with a glimpse of the poet and her work that no biography could ever communicate. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

The title of this fanciful sliver of a novel is a delectable double entendre, expressing the characters of both Emily Dickinson and Emmaline, a poetry-penning mouse who lodges in the wainscoting of the poet's bedroom. Emmaline, who narrates the book, considers herself "nothing more than a crumb gatherer, a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose." But as the inquisitive mouse watches Emily scribbling and scratching away on small scraps of paper for much of the day and night, a gust of wind sends one of the scraps close to her mousehole and Emmaline dashes out to retrieve it. Much to her surprise, she discovers it is a poem so moving ("I felt giddy and inspired, as if a whirligig were spinning in my brain") that it prompts Emmaline to write a verse of her own. She returns both to Emily's desk, and soon the two are exchanging poems inspired by their experiences within the household (eight of Dickinson's, and eight written by Spires in the guise of Emmaline, are included). While Spires (With One White Wing) employs a formal 19th-century tone and vocabulary for her rodent protagonist, it is never stiff or off-putting, but filled with ardency and wit; the poems that Emmaline "writes" echo the style and substance of Dickinson's to a striking degree. Emmaline's newfound enthusiasm and interpretations of Dickinson's poetry will likely coincide with readers' own responses. A brief afterword with biographical information explains just how this clever novel unmasks the "mouse" who rarely ventured past her garden and invites readers into the work and life of one of America's most important poets. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-up.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 900L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (March 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374350833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374350833
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I got this book for my 8 year old daughter as I love poetry and thought the story might appeal to her. It did. She loved reading the story of this sweet mouse who befriends Emily Dickinson. My daughter was so engrossed in the storyline that we/she read it quickly. Rhyme is lots of fun for kids and now she is aware of one more wonderful poet.
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By A Customer on May 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a librarian who loves children's literature. I have always been a huge fan of Emily Dickinson. When I bought this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am now in the process of analyzing it for my college classes, and I find it is even richer than I originally thought. The child who is lucky enough to read this book will come away with the idea that the written word is important, and so is to find one's own talents in life,to find what excites a child to feel that a "whirligig is spinning in my brain." The child will find the importance of friendship in this small volume, and will become introduced in an easy way to poetry and Emily Dickinson. It is a timeless piece which can be used in elementary school as well as high school, where a teacher could truly concentrate on the rich imagery and symbolism. Emmaline will touch a child's heart.
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By A Customer on January 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My daugther and I still read together, even though she is an independent reader. I started to read this book to her. After I had read the first paragraph to her, she stopped me and insisted that she would read this one to me. What a wonderful book.
Emmaline, a mouse,lives in the wall of Emily Dickison's room. You see Emily through the eyes of her uninvited house guest. Poems by both are sprinkled thoughtout.
This is a book to be read and reread.
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By A Customer on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Emily Dickinson fans will love this book! And even children who've never heard of the poet will enjoy this tale of Emmeline the brave little mouse and her shy poet friend. This wonderful story (and the perfect illustrations!) will bring a smile to anyone's face and warm anyone's heart. A sweet treat (like Emily's famous gingerbread).
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Format: Hardcover
"I am a mouse, a white mouse. My name is Emmaline. Before I met Emily, the great poet of Amherst, I was nothing more than a crumb gatherer, a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose. There was an emptiness in my life that nothing seemed to fill. All that changed the day I moved into the Dickinson residence on Main Street..." Emmaline moves into the simple, quiet, sunny upstairs bedroom, and begins her new life in the wainscoting of Emily's room. She observes the Dickinson family, and is most fascinated by her new roommate, Emily. "She always wore white. She seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at once, fluttering through the house like a ghost, stirring up a batch of gingerbread in the kitchen, or walking in the garden, lost in reverie..." Emily is always sitting at her little desk in deep concentration, writing and scribbling on small scraps of paper, and this intrigues the little mouse. When a small scrap finally lands on the floor near Emmaline's door, she snatches it up and begins reading. "Imagine my surprise when I realized I was holding a poem! The words spoke to me. These were my feelings exactly, but ones I had always kept hidden for fear the world would think me a sentimental fool..." Emmaline turns the paper over and words begin to pour out of her; a poem of her own. Then she returns the scrap with her new poem on the back to Emily's desk. That night while Emmaline slept, Emily read her poem and wrote back, slipping the note paper under her little mouse door. "I'm Nobody! Who are you?/Are you-Nobody-too/Then there's a pair of us!/Don't tell! they'd banish us-you know!..." And that, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.....Read more ›
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A Kid's Review on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
I RECOMMEND THE MOUSE OF AMHERST, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIKE POEMS. IT IS ABOUT A MOUSE NAMED, EMMALINE WHO GOES TO LIVE IN THE SAME HOUSE AS A POET NAMED ELIZABETH. THEY WRITE POEMS TO TELL EACH OTHER THINGS. ONE DAY THE MOUSE TRAPPER COMES . WILL EMMALINE BE OK? READ THIS BOOK TO FIND OUT!
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