By Megan Northcote
A beautiful tribute to Emily Dickinson’s life, On Wings of Words is the perfect choice for celebrating Women’s History Month (March) or National Poetry Month (April) with your students.
Snippets of some of Dickinson’s timeless poems are seamlessly interspersed with the text, providing a lyrical look into the inner workings of this esteemed poet’s life and mind. For instance, the author writes, “She loved her school friends, who she said were…” and then allows Dickinson’s own thoughts to finish her sentence - “‘a warmth as near as if the Sun were shining in your Hand.’ ” Likewise, Becca Stadtlander’s imaginative watercolor illustrations further bring Dickinson’s poetry to life. A full-page spread of Dickinson mounted on a grasshopper, soaring with butterflies above her bucolic hometown captures the essence of this poet’s heart and her love for nature as reflected in her writing.
While this book omits many of the factual details commonly found in juvenile biographies, it does a superb job interpreting how the sentiments of the time period impacted a young woman acutely attuned to her surroundings. Life in the 1800s, the author writes, was filled with incurable disease, untreatable accidents, and premature death, all of which motivated Dickinson to begin seeking solace in the written word; while further isolating herself from society, her writing helped her cope with her sorrow and search for answers to her unanswered questions. In the concluding backmatter, readers are encouraged to pick up a pen, just as Dickinson did, to explore their own inner feelings through the reading, writing, and sharing of poetry. I’m sure Dickinson would agree, in a world turned upside down by a deadly pandemic, political turmoil, and social unrest, nothing could be more therapeutic for you and your students than putting pen to paper.