Kerley, Barbara, and Ed Fotheringham. A home for Mr. Emerson. New York: Scholastic Press, 2014. Print.
Audience: Ages 8-12, Grade 3-7
Summary: This picturebook biography focuses on the early life of Ralph Waldo Emerson as he grew up in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. While he was raised a city boy, he dreamed of a life in the country. Eventually, he moved to Concord to raise his family and became an integral part of the small town life. When Emerson was 69 years old his home was destroyed by fire and he traveled in order to recover from the trauma. When he returned, the people of Concord had rebuilt and restored his beloved home. Emerson is brought to life through many colorful, warm illustrations that fill the pages in this oversized book.
Strengths: Emerson’s life story is told in a very accessible style with kid-friendly vocabulary. From the front cover with the oversize flying book, he is shown as a larger than life figure who loves reading and writing. The large hand-drawn illustrations and bright color palette invite the reader into his world. The text is full of quotes from Mr. Emerson’s writing which are set apart from the rest of the story through changes in font and color. The endpapers also illustrate some of his famous sayings. The book also contains an Author’s Note with a photograph of Emerson, an activity page that encourages students to think about some of his quotations, a list of primary sources, and source notes for the quotations.
Weaknesses: The book does not really go into the reason why Emerson is a famous figure in American literature or anything about his early life before he moved to Concord. A student who comes to this book without knowing anything about Emerson would need other sources to get a complete view.
Uses: This well-written biography would be a good resource for younger students to write research reports (CCSS ELA: W.7 Grades K-6), and to introduce the idea of primary sources through the quotations included in the text (CCSS ELA:RI.3 Grades 2-6). It would also serve as an example of how to include quotations in a report (CCSS ELA:W.2b Grades 4-6). Obviously, biography is an excellent way to talk about character as well (CCSS ELA:RL.3 Grades K-6). Art teachers could use the bright spreads to talk about color, especially warm versus cool colors.
· The Extraordinary Mark Twain – Barbara Kerley (Written by the same author, the biography of the writer Mark Twain.)
· Electric Ben- Robert Byrd (Picture book biography of Ben Franklin that also includes many quotations)
· Wonder – R.J. Palacio (A novel that includes the idea of quotations through Mr. Browne’s precepts.)
· Mermaid Queen – Shana Corey (Beautiful picture book biography by the same illustrator.)
· Father, We Thank You – Ralph Waldo Emerson (An illustrated picture book version of one of Emerson’s poems.)
Other: Starred review in Publisher’s Weekly
Resources for Librarians & Teachers:
Common Core Connections: http://www.barbarakerley.com/site/Common_Core__A_Home_for_Mr._Emerson.html