This is a lovely little poem of a book; appropriate enough, since it details the life and poetry of E.E. Cummings. The story describes his childhood as a young boy (then called Estlin, not yet E. E.), and how his parents fostered his poetic inclinations from a very young age. He meets inspiring teachers, goes off to college in search of “the new art,” volunteers to drive an ambulance in World War I, and eventually arrives at the evocative, painting-with-words style of poetry that he became known for.
The art in this book consistently matches his poetic style: textured, warm, subdued, loosely sketched, and with letters and words forming elements of the pictures. The text of the story is beautifully designed, dancing across the page like an E. E. Cummings poem; with words tumbling out of characters’ mouths, drifting through the sky, and leaping from the pages of a book.
The book is described as being for ages 4 – 8, but parents and teachers should plan on kids toward the upper end of that age range to read it, as portions of it may be a little wordy for 4-year-olds. But for any creative child, the young Estlin is a terrific role model, as he coaxes words into pictures in ways that no one ever had before, and perseveres at writing even after his early poems are critically panned.
The book is also a loving portrait of an artistically supportive family: the mother who writes down Estlin’s poems from a young age and encourages his observational skills, the father who indulges in his son’s imaginative play, and eccentric Uncle George who brings him books about poetry and rhyming structures. It’s a book that will be hugely encouraging to young children who want to write, be poets, or just do things a little differently from the norm.
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