VOYA - Beth E. AndersenThe Importance of...series bills its subjects as people who made (or are making) a difference in any of several fields, including sports, politics, literature, music, and history. These attractive volumes, which offer a fascinating, accesible peek into the lives of famous people, include drawings, photographs, reproductions of original manuscripts and playbills, as well as quotes from personal letters and reviews. Authors Steffens, Ayer, and Thrasher respectively (all with impressive scholarly credentials) intermingle events in the lives of their subjects with critical analyses of their writings. They also provide observations and/or criticisms by contemporaries of the trio during the time they each lived. Enough quirky personal details surface in these biographies to hold the interest of even the most reluctant readers, although some of the more intimate details are downplayed considerably. Emily Dickinson wore only white and never left her home for more than a decade, but it is not mentioned that Mary Todd Loomis, responsible for getting Dickinson's poems published posthumously, happened to be the mistress of Emily's married brother Austin. Dickens's affair with Ellen Ternan is briefly noted, but the fact that they lived together is left out. Shakespeare added such words to our vocabulary as zany, tongue-tied, laughingstock; Dickens and Shakespeare were both actors. This highly recommended, wonderful series will help fill those perennial demands for student biographies. Their relatively short length is another bonus. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology. Note: This review was written and published to address three titles: The Importance of Charles Dickens, The Importance of Emily Dickinson, and The Importance of William Shakespeare. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 5-10This engaging narrative succeeds in bringing to life one of literature's most elusive and controversial figures. Steffens emphasizes and celebrates Dickinson's elaborate differences, not only from her creative peers, but also from her family, friends, and contemporary culture. Using a combination of her personal history, psychological influences, religious explorations, and creative processes, the volume pieces together an intricate and cohesive story of both the woman and her work. The content is accessible and cleareach biographical incident is paralleled with a speculated influence on her psyche and an interpretive influence on her work. The overt attempts to present a variety of unbiased interpretations of the poet's life and her work set a positive example for readers learning how to interpret and critique, despite the fact that a preferred reading of a situation or poem is always given. Black-and-white archival photographs and reproductions of influential people and places are scattered throughout, as are well-placed inserts containing primary sources. The universal questions that Dickinson asked and the effects that her questions continue to have make this text a valuable asset to most collections.Kate Foldy, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
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