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Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Home for Mr. Emerson, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic, 2014. $20.99 ages 8 and up

"In college, he still dreamed of fields and woods and home. But, by his junior year in 1820, he also found new things to love: reading stacks of books, discussing them with friends, and recording "new thoughts" in a journal. He named his journal The Wide World. His thoughts took him everywhere. And when he finished school and set out on his own, he wondered..."

What a lovely and uplifting story this is about Ralph Waldo Emerson, his home, his family and the community of Concord, Massachusetts! Creative and informative, it is just one more occasion when young readers can learn about important historical figures through the magic of well-written picture books.

This is not the only time that this first rate team has collaborated to bring to life a person from the past. You might want to check out the others, too. In this book, they tell the story of a man who loves the life he lives, after many upheavals as a young child. It takes until he finishes college for him to find the home and life he loves, after setting himself an admirable task:

"Could he build a life around these things he loved?"

After buying a house in Concord, and making it suitable for his new bride, the two settle in...with hens, roses, trees, flowers and BOOKS. They have important planning on their mind, with focus given to creating an inviting and peaceful place for Ralph to work, and read, and think. It does not feel like 'home' until a host of new friends find themselves welcome there.

"The more Mr. Emerson gave talks
                   and wrote books, the more people
                                          showed up to sit in his parlor."

It matters not how famous he becomes, or how far he travels, he is most comfortable in Concord, surrounded by his family, his friends, his journals, his books and the peaceful tranquility of his life. When their beloved home catches fire, every friend and neighbor gather to save as much as they can.

Saddened by the loss of so many things precious to him, he becomes dispirited and is convinced by friends to take a rest in England. Being away makes him very lonely for everything he loves about Concord, and he longs to be home. What a surprise awaits him upon his arrival!

While Barbara Kerley's words inspire and inform her readers, Edwim Fotheringham accompanies the spirited text with illustrations that complement at every turn. There is such variety in his approach to showing the man who was Ralph Waldo Emerson happy with his life, devastated by the fire, and anxious to get back to those he loves. This fine book allows readers a clear look at the time period and an inspirational writer whose work still resounds today.

Emerson quotes are interspersed throughout, allowing context for the artwork. An author's note, source notes and acknowledgements complete the back matter.

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