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The Mouse of Amherst

I am a mouse, a white mouse. My name is Emmaline. Before I met Emily, the great poet of Amherst, I was nothing more than a crumb gatherer, a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose. There was an emptiness in my life that nothing seemed to fill.
That is, until Emmaline the mouse takes up residence in the wall of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson's room in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emmaline spends her days happily observing the reclusive poet: "She seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at once, fluttering through the house like a ghost, stirring up a batch of gingerbread in the kitchen, or walking in the garden, lost in a reverie." The mouse's life changes when a gust of wind blows one of Emily's poems her way. She blushes as she reads Emily's evocative words that so aptly capture her own feelings, and from then on is determined to be a poet herself. The exchange of poems that occurs between the two species of poet is truly marvellous, as eight of Emily Dickinson's poems are answered by seven of author Elizabeth Spires (an award-winning poet herself). "I'm Nobody! Who are you? / Are you--Nobody--too? / Then there's a pair of us! / Don't tell! they'd banish us--you know!" is followed by Emmaline's "It matters what we think, / What words we put in ink, / It matters what we feel / What feelings we conceal." A near miss with the family cat, an unpleasant interlude with a thick-headed editor, and even a threatening stoat keep the story moving, but the real excitement lies in the deepening friendship between Emily and Emmaline ... and Spires's inventive portrayal of the process of self-expression and the power of words. Along the way, illustrator Claire A. Nivola's sweetly scratchy sketches do a great deal to reflect the shy demeanour of both Emily and Emmaline. A brief portrait of Emily Dickinson concludes the book, but readers will come away with a glimpse of the poet and her work that no biography could ever communicate. (Age 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

Important places

Amherst (31)


Hampshire (76)


Massachusetts (3,085)


United States (64,950)

Other geographical areas

Appalachian Mountains (1,111)
New England (5,830)