Wednesday, November 21, 2012

EMILY AND CARLO by Marty Rhodes Figley

Figley, Marty Rhodes. Emily and CarloIllus. Catherine Stock. Watertown: Charlesbridge, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-58089-274-2. $15.95

Emily and Carlo is the story of a shy, smart young woman and her closest companion. It begins in 1849 in Amherst, Massachusetts, where sad Emily is given a large, black Newfoundland puppy. Emily names the dog Carlo, and with him "by her side, Emily [has] the confidence to explore the world around them." In fact, Emily takes Carlo everywhere and, during the sixteen years she is accompanied by her "shaggy ally," they are only apart for a few months when Emily has to go to the city for health reasons. The time does come, though, when Carlo can no longer be there. Following his death, Emily writes a heartbreakingly short letter:

Carlo died.
E. Dickinson
Would you instruct me now?

As a dog-lover and someone who has been closely accompanied by my own "shaggy ally" of nine years, Romeo, this story deeply resonated with me. The text itself is carefully thought out; Marty Figley has aptly integrated historical research, quotes from Emily Dickinson's own material (indicated by italics), and a bit of creative imagination to construct a memorable read. My enjoyment was only furthered by Catherine Stock's beautiful watercolor illustrations. There is a lovely combination and interplay of closely detailed work and broad, pastel, splashes of color. This book might seem light and whimsical, yet it adds substantive value to an aspect of Emily Dickinson that I was not aware of. This is an excellent early introduction that makes a complex and often mysterious author that much more identifiable for readers.

Stephanie Ashley

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