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Kerley, Barbara. A Home for Mr. Emerson; illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic, 2014. [52p]. ISBN 978-0-545-35088-4 $18.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 3-6.

In this compact biography of Emerson, Kerley carefully selects those elements of Emerson’s life that contribute to her tightly crafted narrative arc that stresses the hope, community and optimism required to create the life of one’s dreams. Omitting mention of Emerson’s grief over losing his first wife and the death of his five-year-old son, she focuses entirely on his success in building a comfortable home of his own in Concord with his second wife, surrounded by natural beauty, crammed with books, and often visited by friends and children with whom he could share ideas and hospitality. As a result, Emerson’s joie de vivre explodes from the pages as the book captures his take-charge approach to crafting the kind of life he envisioned after he left his impoverished childhood in Boston. When his beloved home is ravaged by a fire, the community repays his genial hospitality by responding with vigor and restoring the house while the elderly Emerson is in Europe trying to overcome his loss but yearning for home. The bold, digital illustrations employ a mid-century palette of sunset, avocado, and cerulean, with firmly sketched black linework that recalls linocuts; they effectively play at the intersection of representation and symbolism, with cartooned versions of Emerson walking around his village and its wooded environs interacting with neighbors and friends, but also literally diving into tree-sized books and walking and flying jubilantly over maps of the world to symbolize his virtual and actual travels. The visual metaphors communicate both emotion and action in ways highly accessible to young readers, and Kerley extends the message by including a page of activities and advice to help children inventory their own spirits so that they, like Emerson, can “build therefore [their] own world[s].” This and other memorable Emerson quotations are included on the endpapers and at the beginning and end of the book itself; an author’s note fills in missing pieces in the biography and provides source notes for the quotations.



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