The Mouse of Amherst
by Elizabeth Spires, illus. by Claire A. Nivola
Your child will undoubtedly delight in the discovery that the title of this book is a pun: a mouse named Emmaline dwells in the bedroom of a shy and retiring poet named Emily… Emily Dickinson, that is. Emmaline, who narrates, thinks of herself as “nothing more than a crumb gatherer, a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose.” But that was before she met “the great poet of Amherst.” As she observes Emily Dickinson at her desk, writing away, a breeze carries one of her papers over near Emmaline’s mousehole. The mouse is so touched by the poem she reads, that she writes one of her own in response (“Was it possible that *I* was a poet? I scarcely dared to believe it”), then leaves both her own poem and the poem that inspired it on the poet’s desk. Soon woman and mouse begin a poetry correspondence of sorts, penning poems that capture moments during their days. Author Elizabeth Spires (herself a poet) includes eight of Emily Dickinson’s poems, and eight authored by Emmaline. The mouse’s poems emulate Dickinson’s 19th-century style, but they are extremely accessible and inviting, and Claire A. Nivola’s drawings chart the growing affection between the two poets. Even longtime Dickinson fans will be surprised and delighted by the way Spires tucks some of her better-known poems into perfect circumstances (concerning the mouse and their budding friendship). This is a terrific introduction to poetry but also a story with a reassuring message that even the shyest of us can make a friend.