My Uncle Emily by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Now how about that? A picture book about an American poet. An imagined anecdote from her life, about one of her nephews, who lived next door. Heck, I'd buy it just to have a non-run-of-the-mill opening to talk about poetry... but as it turns out, My Uncle Emily is also a sparkling little story in its own right. The Talented Jane Yolen has incorporated much of the high drama of a small boy's day, from the dread he feels when he knows he has to do something that might get him laughed at, to the exhilarated relief of having thrown a punch. You're in trouble now, boy, might as well enjoy it.
Our Ned picks a flower for his eccentric Uncle Emily, spends some time in a dunce cap (because of that punch), eats cake with the family, and thinks about flies. It's a fine, keenly observed, neatly worded story. It is atmospherically Emily Dickinson.
As are Nancy Carpenter's pen and ink illustrations. I have observed before that Nancy Carpenter (17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore, Apples to Oregon) combines an old-fashioned, E.H. Shepard-y technical prowess with a talent for lively expression. And it may be an old-fashioned thing to compliment, but Nancy Carpenter's draftsmanship - her skill with perspective and composition - gives each of her illustrations an unusually precise spatial feel. I like it.
This is what Nancy Carpenter's illustration style makes me think of. I have no more economical way of saying it. Good day to you - sir, ma'am.