“Meticulously researched, Dear Mr. Longfellow uses letters written by actual children to their beloved poet to re-create, in rich and often-moving detail, the life of a writer who took his readers seriously, and none more so than the youngest of them. Living up to Longfellow’s model, Sydelle Pearl has written a book that I imagine will appeal to readers of all ages.”
—Christoph Irmscher, author of Longfellow Redux and
Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200
“Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry has long had a special appeal to children. This delightful book documents the special bond between the poet and his young readers during his lifetime and how that enthusiasm for his work continues to this day.”
—Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., Maine state historian
Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands.
If you were attending school in the late-nineteenth century, it’s very likely that your teacher would have taught you to memorize these lines from “The Village Blacksmith” by renowned poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And on the classroom wall you’d probably see his portrait looking down benignly on you and your classmates. Longfellow was so famous and beloved by youth in this era that he was known as “the children’s poet.” Students not only memorized his poetry but even knew where his house was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Children in the vicinity often visited him, and from all over the country they wrote him hundreds of letters.
In this charming biography, storyteller and author Sydelle Pearl recounts the life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by drawing upon the letters he received from his young admirers.
In their letters, children from yesteryear reveal details about their lives that reach across the years to young people today. The letters also highlight the unique, close relationship that children shared with Longfellow. A girl from West Virginia writes, “Thank you so much for writing for children. . . . It makes us feel that we are not forgotten.” Others ask him about what he did as a boy or a young man. In one extraordinary gesture of friendship, the schoolchildren of Cambridge celebrated his birthday by presenting him with a chair created from the wood of the “spreading chestnut tree” made famous in his poem “The Village Blacksmith.” Longfellow dedicated his poem “From My Arm-Chair” to these thoughtful children.
Complete with selected poems and photographs of the poet and his family, Dear Mr. Longfellow brings to life a famous figure of American literature and a distant, simpler age in the history of our country.
Pages: 233 (illustrations)
Shipping Weight: 1lbs
Sydelle Pearl is the author of Elijah’s Tears: Stories for the Jewish Holidays; Books for Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman; and Hope Somewhere in America: The Story of a Child, a Painting, and a President. A former children’s librarian, Pearl has been a professional storyteller for twenty years. She gives presentations at schools, libraries, conferences, and festivals.