For Kids

Every year lots of children visit the Emily Dickinson Museum, either with their families or with classes from school.  Emily Dickinson loved children, and she would be happy that you are interested in learning more about her!

On this page you will find

"Emily" by Michael Bedard

Children’s Books about Emily Dickinson

  • Emily by Michael Bedard, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
  • My Uncle Emily by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
  • Emily and Carlo by Marty Rhodes Figley, illustrated by Catherine Stock
  • The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola
  • Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
  • Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson edited by Francis Schoonmaker Bolin, illustrated by Chi Chung

Questions kids often ask about Emily Dickinson
ED at piano by Elizabeth Pols
painting by Elizabeth Pols

Why is Emily famous?

Emily wrote a lot of poetry, and she was very good at it.  She wrote mostly short poems, but each poem was full of meaning.  Emily wrote a lot about nature, poets, religion, and death.  She liked to send her friends poems along with flowers or baked goods.  However, she didn’t publish her poetry during her life.

After Emily died, her sister Vinnie was surprised to find eight hundred poems that Emily had hidden.  Emily’s family and friends had known that she liked to write poetry, but nobody knew she had written so many poems – almost 1,800!  Vinnie decided that the world had to see her sister’s poetry, so she got it published.  Soon, many people were reading her poems.  Now, Emily Dickinson is regarded as one of the greatest poets of the English language.

To see a timeline of Emily Dickinson's life, click here.

What was Emily’s family like?

Emily's mom stayed at home, taking care of the kids and the house, and Emily's father was a lawyer and politician.  He even served a term in the United Stated Congress!  Emily had an older brother, Austin, and a younger sister, Vinnie.  When they grew up, Austin married one of Emily Dickinson’s best friends, Susan Gilbert.  Austin and Sue moved to a house next door to Emily and her parents; the house is called The Evergreens.  Austin and Sue had three children.  Emily loved spending time with her niece and nephews.  Emily never married and never had any kids of her own.

You can see photographs of her family on her family tree.

ED's bedroom

What did Emily like to do?

Emily did a lot of things besides writing poetry.  She wrote lots of letters to her friends and family, and she spent time reading books.  She loved to bake and cook.  A friend of hers wrote, “She makes all the bread for her father only likes hers & says ‘& people must have puddings.'"  She loved nature.  She often went outside to garden, and she went on long walks with her big dog, Carlo.

What was it like to meet Emily?

If you were to go back in time and meet Emily, you might have an experience like MacGregor Jenkins, who knew her when he was a kid.

  • I remember her as slight of stature, quick, graceful and animated in every movement ... [with] a mass of glorious auburn hair and a pair of lustrous [shining] eyes. . . . Her participations in our games, her stout defense of us in times of stress, her defiance of Maggie in raiding the pantry that we should be well-supplied with cookies or doughnuts, all these were the attributes of a very real and a very human friend and comrade . . . . We felt freer with her than with any other of the older generation in either family.

Mac Jenkins remembers that Emily lowered a basket filled with gingerbread out of her window for him and the other kids to eat.

Emily’s niece, Mattie, wrote about her aunt:

  • “She adored us, her three child lovers, talked to us as if we were grown up and our opinions of importance, our secrets portentous [significant], though always keeping herself our playmate with such art that she remains in my memory as a little girl herself."

The children also remember Emily disappearing from sight whenever she heard an “intruder”.  This is why people call Emily Dickinson reclusive:  when she was older, she would only see children, her close friends, and her family.

Dickinson Poems for Kids

Emily Dickinson wrote a lot about fame, but it wasn’t always clear exactly what her view was.  The poem below is talking about how lucky she is to be a “Nobody” and how she’s so glad not to be “public.”  She had plenty of experience with people who were “public” because her father was a very important man in the town.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you - Nobody - too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise - you know!

How dreary - to be - Somebody!
How public - like a Frog -
To tell one’s name - the livelong June -
To an admiring Bog!

Fr 260

Another topic that Emily wrote a lot about it is poetry.  In this poem, Emily says that writing poetry is like lighting a lamp.  She says that just like how a light can stay on after a person leaves, poetry can still be read and appreciated when the poet is gone.

The Poets light but Lamps -
Themselves - go out -
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns -
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference -

Fr 930

More Fun with Emily Dickinson

If you want to learn more about Emily Dickinson, you can explore other pages on our website, especially in the Emily Dickinson section.  You might want to have an adult explore with you.

Be sure to check out our "Fun and Games" page.  Here you will find some coloring pages, an on-line puzzle, a game with Emily Dickinson's riddle poems, and a poem-of-the-week word search!

And come for a visit!   Click here for more information about visiting our museum.

Works Cited
Puddings quote:  from The Letters of Emily Dickinson, letter 342a.

MacGregor Jenkins quotes:  from Emily Dickinson: Friend and Neighbor by MacGregor Jenkins.  Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1930.

Martha Dickinson quotes:  from "Preface" to Emily Dickinson: The Single Hound 1914. London: Hesperus Press Limited, 2005.

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