- Age Range: 6 - 8 years
- Grade Level: 1 - 3
- Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Publisher: Philomel Books; First Edition edition (May 14, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399240055
- ISBN-13: 978-0399240058
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 9.3 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,390,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Uncle Emily Hardcover – May 14, 2009
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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
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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!
On one occasion, Uncle Emily gives Gib two presents for his teacher, Mrs. Howland. She wrote a poem on a scrap of paper and handed him a dead bumblebee. Kind of a weird gift instead of the cliche apple, but Gib complies as he knows his Uncle Emily has a good reason for choosing such outre gifts. She was known in their Massachusetts community as a good hearted soul known for giving people poems and for her reclusive lifestyle outside of her immediate family.
Gib understood his "Uncle" quite well, but feared she and he, by extension would be ridiculed for her seeming eccentricity. Mrs. Howland reads Uncle Emily's poem about the bumble bee to the class and Gib, cringing inside fears nobody else will "get it." A bully named Jonathan pummeled him during recess and made cruel remarks about Uncle Emily. Naturally Gib defended her and in so doing, sprained his ankle.
The boys were ordered to apologize and Gib was delighted when his nemesis wrote his piece in poem.
Upon returning home, sadder but wiser, Gib has to go about his daily chores around the family farm. He tries to conceal his limping and thinks how clueless the adult population is as nobody but his "Uncle" even notices. When asked about it, he gives a vague answer which elevate him to "hero" status in the eyes of his older sister and brother.
Wise Uncle Emily knows there is more to the story than the boy is telling, so she encourages him to get to the truth, even if he has to take the Long & Winding Road to get there. He takes her advice with very pleasant results.
A delightful book with lovely illustrations, this masterpiece will introduce very young readers to the genius of Emily Dickinson. This book underscores the love and unity of family bonds and acceptance and tolerance of a person who is "different."
In retrospect, it has been suggested that Emily Dickinson might have had Asperger's Syndrome. While this has never been proven (as she predates the term, but the condition is as old as time), certain aspects of her behavior do suggest that possibly she did occupy a place on the spectrum. The good thing is that she was surrounded by a loving family in a community that was very tolerant of someone who was indeed "different."
This is a geniune masterpiece.
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!