Monday, October 12, 2015


It's here, like it or not. Most people love the fall--the crisp and invigorating air, the splashes of color, the return from summer laze to busy days.

The best part of autumn for me is that I gave birth to three of my children during that season. Growing up in northern Michigan, I have an aversion to winter and fall inevitably brought a strong hint of that coming season I'd have to endure. But, this year in Virginia, summer let us down very gently and kindly and the incoming season is having its cheerful effect on even me.

In years past, I have chosen a poet for each term of school and we have spent three months exploring the sound and feel of that unique voice. This year I decided to take an entire year for one poet so that we can make stronger connections. I chose Emily Dickinson (for whom a famous librarian at LBL is named), partly because I know her poetry and want to know it better, partly because my children need to do the same, and partly because her collected poems number around 1,200 so there are plenty of them from which to choose.

Here's one we have enjoyed this season, that puts color and song into autumn:

The morns are meeker than they were--
The nuts are getting brown--
The berry's cheek is plumper--
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf--
The field a scarlet gown--
Lest I should be old fashioned
I'll put a trinket on.

Do you know these books on Dickinson?

Emily by Michael Bedard
Miss Emily by Jean Gould
Poetry for Young People, Emily Dickinson by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin

For fun, why not see how many references to autumn you can harvest in your regular daily in and out of school books. Perhaps your children will include some in their nature notebooks. I noticed this one the other day:

"Here a whole crowd came streaming to the banks… as many souls as
leaves that yield their hold on boughs and fall through forests in the
early frost of autumn…” (The Aeneid by Virgil)

And from a modern picture book by Alan Say titled Grandfather's Journey:

"Bombs fell from the sky and scattered our lives like leaves in a storm..."

That last one was my five-year-old son's first glimpse of a metaphor, and loving the outdoors and being ignorant of bombs, it gave him a mental picture of their destructive results.

Books hold no end of pictures for us, poems paint with vivid strokes, allusions and metaphors mix rich color into literature. We do not need to comprehend the terminology of literary criticism nor the meaning of the simplest poem to appreciate their additions to the gallery of our imagination, for words are as varied and picturesque as the seasons. Add to your personal collection while you turn the leaves of books in your life as lovingly as children gather leaves in autumn.

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world." (of David, Psalm 19, NKJV)

For the joy of reading,



  1. I have been fond of Emily Dickinson since college! My boys and I memorized the autumn poem last year - just love that one. Another sweet picture book is called The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires, about a mouse who lives in Emily's home and they develop a friendship. Sweet.

    1. Kelly,

      Thanks for sharing the other picture book and your own love for Emily
      Dickinson in your home.


  2. Aww. We LOVE that poem!!! We enjoyed Emily Dickinson last term with our CM group and I appreciate her so much more now that we took some time getting to know her poetry and life. I've never heard of the Gould title, thank you! I'm really intrigued and love the idea of taking a year to immerse yourself in one poet. :)

    1. It is nice to take that time so there is time to also investigate their life, once we love the sound of their words.


  3. PS - That is such a good idea to include poems or quotes in our nature journals! We've done it occasionally, thank you for the reminder! The Handbook of Nature Study has some also that go with the different areas being studied. My oldest likes looking at those. :)

  4. I, too, have Autumn babies. So fitting as it is my very favorite time of year! It is such a blessing to be in a part of the country where I can once again appreciate the beauty of fall. We spent a season in early 2014 traipsing through a lovely children's Dickinson poetry book and enjoyed these two books (mentioned below) immensely as we read her poetry. It prompted my oldest, then 6, to change the name of his beloved stuffed giraffe from "Music" to "Emily."
    Bedard's Emily is a wonderful picture book and a favorite here. We also enjoyed the longer The Mouse of Amherst written about Emily Dickinson from the perspective of a mouse (naturally:).

    1. Dawn,
      The beauty of autumn has inspired poets for centuries, but I think babies are the real poems.


  5. I can empathize with your aversion to fall because I feel the same way. I told my husband recently that I feel like it's a very deceptive season because it gives you such lovely, gorgeous weather and lures you into comfort, and then, without warning, it's cold and dark. Obviously, I have some issues with winter that I should probably work through. ;-)

    I also love that Dickenson poem though. It reminds me of my piano teacher growing up. She always put it up in her studio during the autumn months and hung a necklace (a trinket) around it.

    1. Amy,

      Thank you for sharing your sympathy about fall; I often feel like a traitor to say these thoughts out loud, and now, there they are in print. I loved your memory of the piano teacher's display, which shows how children absorb permanently the little efforts we make for them.


  6. I love the Bedard/Cooney book, but the Gould one is new to me. Will have to track it down.

    Thanks for the reminder to include poetry and other literary passages in my nature notebook. My drawing is...lacking, shall we say, but I can copy verse!