Book Review: The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell your name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog! –

by Emily Dickinson

This poem by Emily Dickinson is one of my favorites. I have read poetry – or have had it read to me – for years. There is nothing like hearing words cascading on the ear in a pleasurable rhythm!

But I did not find Emily Dickinson’s poem I’m Nobody in a book of poetry, readers. I discovered it on the back of The Mouse of Amherst. In this case that would be Amherst, Massachusetts, home of the famous Emily Dickinson. It seems that Miss Dickinson’s poetry has undergone some sort of revival of late. Her work is fantastic, certainly, but she received next to no recognition for it during her lifetime. Most of her poetry was published posthumously.

Part of the reason for this is that the publishers of the time had no idea how to categorize her work. Miss Dickinson’s poetry did not conform to the poetry published during her time. In fact, many of her verses seemed “uncontrolled” and out of sync with what was considered “real” poetry.

This has led to innumerable stories being published about the reclusive Miss Dickinson in recent memory. The Mouse of Amherst is one such novel. Written for young children, The Mouse of Amherst introduces the reader to Emily Dickinson and her poetry from a unique perspective – through the eyes of a mouse that has moved into the wainscoting in Miss Dickinson’s room!

This young white mouse is Emmaline. As any other young mouse, Emmaline’s primary concerns are avoiding the cat and surviving. Yet she senses something about such a life is not fulfilling. It is dull and monotonous; there is nothing to fill her hours except eating, sleeping, and avoiding danger.

Until she moves into her new room, and discovers a welcome gift from Miss Dickinson. It is an inkwell and a feather pen, both mouse-sized. Underneath the inkwell is a poem from Emily Dickinson to Emmaline Mouse (though naturally Miss Dickinson has no idea of her new roommate’s name).

Thus begins the pen pal relationship between the great poet and the small mouse. The two exchange poems and Emmaline encourages Miss Dickinson when her poetry is once again rejected for publication. The strange friendship, however, has its risks – a ball of fur with nine lives, teeth, and claws!

The Mouse of Amherst is a sweet little book fit for any child, though it will probably appeal more quickly to girls than to boys. Everyone should be exposed to good poetry in their life at some point. The Mouse of Amherst is a fine introduction for children to the ticklish, tightrope world of poetry.

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

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About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian
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