The Illustrated Robert Frost & The Illustrated Emily Dickinson (Ryan G. Van Cleave)

Hello, friends! Our books today are The Illustrated Robert Frost and The Illustrated Emily Dickinson – both edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave and illustrated by David Miles – collections of the famous poets’ work geared toward young readers.

Collecting twenty-five of each poet’s short works, these illustrated editions pair the poems of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost with lush mixed-media art and early-level analysis to help bookworms understand how to read the poems critically. Each poem has a two-page spread that includes sidebars that help the reader “Engage” (answer questions about the poem), “Imagine” (expand upon the poem’s content), and “Define” (learn the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words). Readers can immerse themselves in famous works like “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” and “The Road Not Taken,” as well as dozens more in these early appreciation volumes.

Interesting. Flat out, I have two different reviews for each book. As a concept, I think this works wonderfully; by giving young readers a roadmap to poetry analysis, the books help kids engage with material that may be too dense otherwise. Particularly helpful are the plain-speech descriptions in the notes of the afterword, which could have honestly been included on the page of each poem. However, some of the interpretations that Van Cleave includes are not widely accepted ones, and occasionally quite watered down for the younger audience. His selection of Dickinson’s poetry fares alright under this, but Frost’s less so. The artwork, a mixture of public domain and stock images, works sometimes and doesn’t others. While it definitely creates atmosphere, it’s typically pretty obvious that the artwork was not created FOR the poem it accompanies. Also, diverse representation is practically nonexistent – nearly every person that appears is white. The length is best for middle grade or older elementary readers, and JJ enjoyed a poem or two, but quickly lost interest. Overall, I would recommend these to fans of the poets’ work, especially the Dickinson title, but if you skip them, you’re not missing too much. Overall though, Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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