The team behind What to Do About Alice?, The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy), and Those Rebels, John & Tom continue their tradition of excellent and exuberant studies of historical figures with a theatrical story about writer Ralph Waldo Emerson's relationship with his beloved Concord, Mass., home and community. Fotheringham pours visual variety onto the pages: in one image, Emerson contentedly reads while encircled by a whirlwind of books; on an especially powerful wordless spread, Emerson stands in shadow before the burning ruins of his estate, which caught fire in 1872. Well-sourced quotations appear throughout the story (and fill the endpapers), both contextualizing Emerson's life and standing as testament to the value of an open mind and a generous heart. Appended materials offer additional details about Emerson and encourage readers to "choose the life you create for yourself," as he did. Ages 8–12.
The team behind creative picture-book biographies The Extraordinary Mark Twain (2010) and What To Do About Alice? (2008) turns its attention to 19th-century American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Emersonian quotations adorn the pages and endpapers ("Every spirit builds a house, and beyond its house a world….Build therefore your own world"), but the philosopher's ideas and historical context are not the focus of this visually dynamic biography. Instead, this is largely the story of a natural scholar who loves his cozy home in Concord, Mass., so much that when it is damaged in a terrible fire, he mourns it like the death of a person. The illustrations—prancing across oversized pages—are cheery, inventive, bright and busy, depicting a contented-looking man in coat and tails basking in the magnificence of life. In bold and whimsical spreads, Emerson literally dives into books, strides across a U.S. map and, most dramatically, looms as a silhouette amid the flaming ruins of his beloved house. It's hard to say whether this tale will inspire children to further investigation into the philosopher's life and work, but the author's note does help round out the portrait, including Emerson's friendships with Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott.
A small, inviting window into the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson and an inspiring tribute to a life's dream realized. (author's note, philosophical prompts, source notes, acknowledgments) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)