I read this Kindle goodie because Emily Dickinson grew up with it and I'm researching her for my scary YA work-in-progress.
As you can see from my updates, this 19th-century New England children's book is not exactly Dr. Seuss. They do have some things in common, though.
Hey! Let's compare them, shall we?
Do this primer and the beloved books of Dr. Seuss:
1. Utilize lists of short, commonly used words in order to help children learn to read?
2. Believe that words like "heinous" and "hateful" are good and proper two-syllable words for young readers to learn?
3. Offer young readers stories written in catchy rhymes?
Primer: Depends on your definition of "catchy"
4. Offer at least one story featuring a delightfully playful cat?
5. Offer at least one story featuring a cat playing with big, hairy rats and then killing and eating them?
Seuss: Good gracious, no
Primer: Heck, yeah
6. Teach, via aforementioned fun-loving cat, that playing around a little behind your parents' backs is okay as long as you clean up afterward and no one gets hurt?
Primer: Absolutely not
7. Teach that if kids sass their parents, they should "die the death"?
Primer: Burn, baby, burn.Conclusion:
Anyone who thinks Dickinson's poetry is a little on the morbid side should read this book and realize that, if anything, she's a ray of sunshine in a dark New England winter.
Fer realz, her work actually rebels against this aspect of her upbringing. She celebrates the joys of earthly existence in poem after poem, and vigorously disagrees with the idea that life is nothing more than a (not always) lengthy preparation for death:Who has not found the Heaven – below –
Will fail of it above –
For Angels rent the House next our's,
Wherever we remove –
Dickinson so adored the good things her life on earth had to offer – her beloved family and few treasured friends, her dear dog Carlo, the ever-dazzling beauty of nature, and of course her writing – that she composed, on the torn-off corner of an envelope, what is possibly the cheekiest prayer-poem ever written:Some Wretched
Who would Exult to die
And leave for
This book may have succeeded in its memento mori
mission with the majority of its young readers, but Dickinson rejected it utterly. And that's all I care about.
Read this if you want a creepy look at what used to be considered appropriate fare for children.