I saw A Home for Mr. Emerson randomly at the library and grabbed it up immediately. What a find! I use picture books heavily to teach history/science/pretty-much-anything and after reading this book, I decided to change up my homeschooling plan just a bit this fall to make sure and include Ralph Waldo Emerson as a featured poet—all because of this book.
So many biographies fall flat with cartoony, digital pictures; others have long, dry text that reads like an encyclopedia entry. But this book does what all picture books should aim to do: tell a good story and illustrate it well. It’s that simple… and that difficult.
I really didn’t know much of anything about Emerson but this book has all the necessary elements to serve as an educational spine and build out from there. A real story (complete with a beginning, middle, and end—not just a telling of his life), quotes from his writings, fantastic, appealing pictures to delight young and old, and a full page of biographical notes in the back for further research.
Yet another ‘bonus’ element of the book is the underlying message about how important it is to build the life you dream of, connect with your community and find sanctuary in your home. I also had no idea that this team of Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham had produced 3 other biographies (Those Rebels, John and Tom, What To Do About Alice?, and The Extraordinary Mark Twain) that I am adding to my check-out list immediately. Knowing how important it is to have the right illustrator for the right text and vice versa, I can say with confidence that this duo is a match made in picture book heaven. Kerley has written other non-fiction titles and her Walt Whitman book deserves accolades of its own. Those illustrations are rich and realistic—great for that book. But there’s something about the chemistry of Kerley/Fotheringham that I personally really love.