Emily and Carlo

illus. by Catherine Stock. unpaged. bibliog. notes. CIP. Charlesbridge. Feb. 2012. RTE $15.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-274-2; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-60734-075-1. LC 2011000658.
Gr 1–5—The titular duo is Emily Dickinson and her dog, a present from her father to keep her company when her siblings leave home. Figley uses Dickinson's connection to her large, hairy Newfoundland both to re-envision the renowned recluse as a person with a long, loving relationship and to make her seemingly austere life more accessible to younger readers. Her partially imagined narrative recounts the poet's 16-year friendship with her pet, from their rambles around the woods and meadows of Amherst to their separation during Emily's trips for medical treatment and their final parting when Carlo dies of old age. The author draws on Dickinson's letters and poems to flesh out her subject's fondness for her "shaggy ally" and includes quotes throughout. At first glance, the book design is fairly commonplace; the choice of watercolors to capture a 19th-century female within a flower-filled backdrop does little to distinguish this title from other historical picture books. However, Stock's paintings bring unexpected warmth and happiness to Dickinson's usually sober image. Strong, busy strokes convey a sense of texture and vibrancy in the New England landscape. While animal lovers will appreciate this gentle story, readers not hooked by an inherent sense of empathy for a fellow pet owner might find the narrative plain or overlook the subtle charms of Stock's art. Still, Figley's introduction has greater appeal for those unfamiliar with the poet than the straightforward, chapter-book biographies currently in print. Libraries that own Michael Bedard's Emily (Doubleday, 2007) and Jeanette Winter's Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World (Farrar, 2002) may consider this an additional purchase, while those without picture-book coverage of the poet will find it worthwhile.—Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI
Figley provides a fictional glimpse into a lesser-known part of Emily Dickinson's life. Stock's watercolors capture the sloppy enthusiasm of the poet's enormous Newfoundland dog; the text details their cross-species devotion, with the occasional sprinkling of Dickinson's own words. This story will appeal to children too young for Dickinson's work. More information on the reclusive poet and her pet is appended. Bib.

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