a fresh look at Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost

Let’s take a peek at the first two titles in the new Illustrated Poets Collection just released in August by Bushel & Peck Books.

Both The Illustrated Emily Dickinson and The Illustrated Robert Frost were edited by poet and educator Ryan G. Van Cleave, Creative Writing Coordinator at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

They each contain “25 Essential Poems” paired with David Miles’s gorgeous full color collages (he had me at those beautiful eye-catching covers). 🙂

~ from The Illustrated Robert Frost

In his welcoming series introduction, Van Cleave offers friendly suggestions for making the most of the books. He encourages readers to simply “enjoy the poems” rather than puzzle over the poet’s intentions or dwell on other people’s interpretations.

Next, it’s good to engage with the poems by asking questions such as:

  • What do you notice about this poem?
  • How does this poem make you feel?
  • What else have you read/seen/experienced that connects with this poem?

Finally, it’s important to “be your own boss” – read the poems in order or jump around as one sees fit. Share them with others or savor them by yourself. Read them aloud or “whisper their words in your heart.”

~ from The Illustrated Robert Frost

Ultimately, “there is NO wrong way to experience a poem.” This reminds me of Lee Bennett Hopkins saying that a poem is meant to be experienced rather than analyzed, and I think this goes a long way in making poetry less intimidating for the average reader.

The 25 poems in each book are presented in three sections: 

For Dickinson: The Natural World, Ideas & Imagination, and Heart & Spirit.

For Frost: Exploring Nature, Innocence & Inspiration, and Choice & Change.

~ from The Illustrated Emily Dickinson

Each poem is featured in a double page spread with a sidebar consisting of three components, Engage, Imagine, and Define. Readers “engage” via questions about poetic form or themes (what do the woods represent, why was personification used ?). Imagine offers activities for creative play (give the poem a theme song, view the poem as an advertisement, if the poem lived next to you, would it be a good neighbor?). Define offers help for less familiar words.

Van Cleave’s backmatter includes “Ten Things” to know about each poet, a  “Commentary of the Poems” (synopses + key aspects to take note of), suggestions for further reading and a bibliography.

~ from The Illustrated Robert Frost

As project artist and book designer, David Miles has created visually appealing and accessible introductions to two of America’s most eminent poets for ages 7-10. His collages, composed of stock and public domain images, are a refreshing blend of old and new: images of flora and fauna are sometimes set against the background of classic paintings, and he’s not above injecting elements of whimsy here and there. I especially like the elements of Victorian ephemera in the Dickinson book, and the predominance of natural landscapes in the Frost book.

~ from The Illustrated Emily Dickinson

The art, along with the generous 9” x 11” trim size, make for an inviting “first look” at the poems, especially for the poetry-phobic reader. Collages, by nature of their unique juxtapositions, are an interesting form of visual poetry that can effectively illuminate choice aspects of the text. 

Van Cleave includes the seminal poems one might expect along with other age appropriate gems.


  • “A Light Exists in Spring”
  • “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”
  • “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers”
  • “Tell the Truth but tell it slant – “
  • “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”
  • “There’s a certain Slant of light”


  • “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
  • “Fire and Ice”
  • “The Road Not Taken”
  • “Mending Wall”
  • “Nothing Gold Can Stay”
  • “Birches”

Enjoy a pair of sample poems from each book with their full text (bolded words are clarified in sidebar). I selected them because they were less familiar to me, and it was lovely to experience them in these books.

From The Illustrated Emily Dickinson:

by Emily Dickinson

He ate and drank the precious Words --
His Spirit grew robust --
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust --

He danced along the dingy Days,
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book -- What Liberty
A loosened spirit brings --


by Emily Dickinson

The Murmur of a Bee
A Witchcraft -- yieldeth me --
If any ask me why --
'Twere easier to die --
Than tell --

The Red upon the Hill
Taketh away my will --
If anybody sneer --
Take care -- for God is here --
That's all.

The Breaking of the Day
Addeth to my Degree --
If any ask me how --
Artist -- who drew me so --
Must tell!


From The Illustrated Robert Frost:

by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
of a day I had rued.


by Robert Frost

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise 
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
'Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use,
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?


THE ILLUSTRATED EMILY DICKINSON: 25 Essential Poems (Series Book 1)
edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave
illustrations by David Miles
published by Bushel & Peck Books, August 2022
Poetry Collection for ages 7-10, 64 pp.
*Includes Dickinson facts, Commentary on the Poems, Suggestions for Further Reading and Bibliography


THE ILLUSTRATED ROBERT FROST: 25 Essential Poems (Series Book 2)
edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave
illustrations by David Miles
published by Bushel & Peck Books, August 2022
Poetry Collection for ages 7-10, 64 pp.
*Includes Frost facts, Commentary on the Poems, Suggestions for Further Reading and Bibliography

NOTE: Bushel & Peck Books is dedicated to fighting illiteracy all over the world. For every book sold, they will donate to a child in need — book for book.


The lovely and talented Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup this week. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere. Enjoy your weekend!

*Interior spreads illustrations copyright © 2022 David Miles, introductory text and supplemental material copyright © 2022 Ryan G. Van Cleave, published by Bushel & Peck Books. All rights reserved.

**This post contains Amazon and Bookshop affiliate links. When you purchase an item using a link on this blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support.

***Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

38 thoughts on “a fresh look at Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost

  1. Oh, my goodness…these will be a present to myself…wait…no. I’ll order them for my public library. Wait! No…I’ll do both. Jama, these are gorgeous books! Thank you for introducing them to us. I love them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Jama, for this poetic blog. I was feeling a bit down this morning, but you have made me imagine the day in a new way! I love Frost and Dickinson! Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Jama. Mille grazie!!!! as in THANKS A MILLION. I love these works and can’t wait to own and gift them. The art and everything is precious. Off to order now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First, these are new to me & thank you for sharing them, Jama. I love each one you shared, especially “Gathering Leaves” here at the end of autumn where I do know that a spade will not do! : ). Second, I didn’t know about the Bushel & Peck, book for book giving. That is really special! Have a lovely weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, these are new to me and they are lovely! Two of my favorite poets, too. (Well, really, who am I kidding? Can I ever pick favorites?? So many to love, but Frost and Dickinson are definitely on the list.) 😀 Gorgeous books!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jama, I love this post packed with such wonderful resources. I am adding your link to my poetry presentation to teachers during the February session. You provided a wealth of information for them. I especially like this one about poems: “whisper their words in your heart.” Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So delightful! I’m thrilled to discover these books over here in the Soup, and to be introduced to Bushel & Peck Books – what a great name. Thank you for the generous looks inside. These treatments make classic poems and personalities accessible to a fresh crop of new readers! Your insights are always appreciated, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, always good to entice new readers to iconic poets. I also like the name Bushel & Peck — and am in favor of supporting indie publishers whenever possible.


    1. My copy arrived today. It is a larger book, not huge, so a really nice one to hold and enjoy. It’s a thing of wonder and beauty all rolled into one, I am so glad Jama shared this.

      Liked by 1 person

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