Book Review – Dear Mr. Longfellow by Sydelle Pearl

Dear Mr. Longfellow : letters to and from the children’s poet
Sydelle Pearl

Okay. I wanted with most of my being to love this book and think it was awesome. I really did. In fact, when I saw it at the library, I snatched it without a second thought.

And then I read it. Or, part of it anyway.

The book is listed as adult non-fiction and is a combination of letters written to Longfellow by children, transcriptions thereof (just in case you can’t read the absolute perfect cursive handwriting), biographical commentary and whatever else.
And that’s where my issue is the largest. The book reads more like its geared towards children than the children’s letters do. Simple sentences, complete with fancy punctuation to make a point! There are so many exclamation points so that we’ll be excited! Oy!

I was hoping that this was truly just an introduction and reprints of the letters. But what I got instead was a dumbed-down volume that insulted me as a reader. Hello, this is Longfellow! We’re taking a scholarly look at a historical writer. Chances are that we have a brain if we’ve picked it up in the first place. The book actually goes so far as to explain to us what state a letter is from if it uses a standard postal abbreviation. Seriously. They actually went far enough to explain that N.Y. was New York. I could see it (possibly) if they were using unacceptable abbreviations (standard two letter abbreviations weren’t yet standard in Longfellow’s time), but every example I saw either used an accepted abbreviation or half the state name.
Oh, and something like THIRTY PAGES of notes and indexes at the end of the book. Which means that it was a lot less substantial than it appeared.

If this had been written as children’s non-fiction and structured slightly differently, it would have been much better. The images needed to be larger, the comments needed to be reworked, and seriously – children’s book.

So, as it is right now, I give the book a very sad 2 out of 5.


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