Reviews for My Uncle Emily

Booklist Reviews 2009 May #1
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. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Fall
Yolen stitches a story about Emily Dickinson's nephew Gib, a kindred spirit who called the poet "Uncle Emily." The book's greatest charm is how its outcome arises from Emily's oblique yet penetrating wisdom. Carpenter's illustrations capture personalities and period in freely sketched portraits resembling old newspaper engravings, with a soft autumnal palette. Fact and fiction are nicely sorted in a concluding note. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #4
Yolen stitches what's known of Emily Dickinson's family into a story about her close bond with her nephew Gib, who called her "Uncle Emily." Once, she gave him a poem, together with a dead bee, for his teacher. As the six-year-old explains, it's "as if she wants me to see the world one small bee and one small poem at a time" -- as indeed Gib does: he and Emily are true kindred spirits. What happens next is Yolen's plausible invention. The teacher reads the poem ("The Bumble Bee's Religion") aloud; the children are mystified but respectful -- except for Jonathan, who calls Emily "a peculiar old maid." In defending his aunt, Gib twists his ankle. How to explain his limp without revealing the hurtful insult? Emily -- in another poem -- has some advice: "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant..." So Gib does: "I dazzled everyone with the full story, telling the whole truth, but coming around to it slowly" so as to extract the insult's sting. Carpenter's illustrations capture personalities and period in freely sketched portraits that resemble old newspaper engravings, with a soft autumnal palette. Though the book's greatest charm may be the way its outcome arises from Emily's oblique yet penetrating wisdom, the loving family dynamics and pacific defusing of the contretemps with the bully add still more appeal. Fact and fiction are nicely sorted out in a concluding note. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 April #2
A six-year-old boy stalwartly defends his spinster aunt in a touching incident based on an event in poet Emily Dickinson's life. Gib and his "uncle" Emily "often laugh together about things we two find funny," but not poetry, which is "not a joke at all." When Emily gives him a dead bee and a poem about the bee for his teacher, Gib worries his classmates won't understand the poem. Gib's fears are realized when his classmate calls Emily a "peculiar old maid." Defensively, Gib hits the boy and conceals the incident from his aunt until she urges him with a poem to "Tell all the Truth." Speaking through Gib's first-person voice, Yolen artfully incorporates elements from Dickinson's poetry and life to give readers an inside look at the enigmatic poet from her nephew's fresh and loving perspective. Carpenter's nostalgic, pastel-hued pen, ink and digital-media illustrations capture the atmosphere of late-19th-century Amherst as well as Gil's special relationship with his famous aunt in this poetic vignette. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 May #1

Caldecott Medalist Yolen (Owl Moon) turns her attention to the poet Emily Dickinson and her young nephew, Thomas Gilbert ("Gib"), expanding on some real-life interactions between them to explore the role of poetry in human life. Gib feels obliged to defend his reclusive aunt's honor when a classmate makes fun of her, then can't bring himself to tell his family about the fight. Uncle Emily (their private nickname for her) can tell he's holding back and gives him a poem that explains how he can preserve his integrity--once he understands her poetic language. " 'Tell all the Truth,' it began, 'but tell it slant--/ Success in Circuit lies.' " Carpenter's crisp tableaus evoke the period with restraint: adults poised with teacups, girls in lace collars, boys in short pants. In one striking image, Gib kneels by his bed, studying a dead bee and a poem his aunt has written about it, "as if she wants me to see the world/ one small bee/ and one small poem/ at a time"--a description that might also apply to Yolen. Ages 6-8. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 June

Gr 2-5--This story is a fictionalized account of Emily Dickinson's interactions with one of her young nephews. "Uncle Emily," as Gib calls his aunt, gives the boy a poem to take to his teacher. When a classmate makes fun of his beloved aunt, labeling her "a peculiar old maid," Gib comes to her defense and gets into a fight. He is afraid to tell his family about the incident until his aunt gives him a poem called, "Tell all the Truth." In an afterword, Yolen explains that Dickinson really did give Gib a poem to take to school, and that the two were very close. The rest of the story, however, is invented. Yolen is a master of word craft and the story is beautifully told in short, rhythmic lines that read like free verse. The story highlights some of Dickinson's well-known characteristics: her white clothing, her love of gardening, and her fondness for children. Carpenter's watercolor and ink illustrations are full of light and done with crosshatching that suggests the printing technique found in late-19th-century children's books. The effect helps place the story in a historical setting. This book is similar to Michael Bedard's Emily (Doubleday, 1992). Both are written at about the same reading level, are beautifully illustrated, and give fictionalized accounts of Dickinson's relationships with children.--Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT

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