Emily and Carlo book cover image

Emily and Carlo

  • 1595

By: Marty Rhodes Figley / Illustrated by: Catherine Stock

I started early, took my dog

When Emily Dickinson was given a puppy by her father, the two were instant best friends. She named him Carlo, after a dog in one of her favorite books, and she delighted in the growing dog’s antics. Carlo, a Newfoundland (and possibly part Saint Bernard), grew to a rather large size and was full of energy. He loved his adventures with Emily.

They were an odd pair—a tiny woman and a large, galumphing dog. But they were devoted to one another. Carlo gave Emily confidence to wander and explore the woods and hills near her home, and he listened to her stories and poems.

This touching story—delightfully illustrated by Catherine Stock—gives a new insight into the life of the famed reclusive poet of Amherst, Massachusetts. Learning of her close friendship and love for Carlo sheds a new light on the thoughts and feelings of a woman believed to be lonely. Carlo is present in much of her poetry, and readers learn of a woman of charm and wit who loved her constant companion.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Marty Rhodes Figley, author

Marty Rhodes Figley is the author of several books for young readers, including Prisoner for Liberty and Washington Is Burning. She is a member of the Emily Dickinson International Society, and her academic paper on Emily and Carlo was published in The Emily Dickinson Journal. She lives in Annandale, Virginia.

Read more about Marty.

Catherine Stock, illustrator

Catherine Stock is the author and illustrator of A Spree in Paree and the illustrator of After the Kill, Vinnie and Abraham, and the popular Gus and Grandpa series, among many other books for children. She divides her time between New York and France.

Read more about Catherine.

Awards & Honors:

  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:


What better way to introduce kids to Emily Dickinson than via her dog, Carlo—a floppy, drooly Newfoundland? This fresh approach focuses on the relationship between the two, and the short narrative is punctuated with well-sourced quotes that reflect her thoughts. For example: “The Dog is the noblest work of Art . . . his mistress’ rights he doth defend—.” Together, this unlikely pair roams the woods and pond around Amherst: “The Frogs sing sweet today— / they have such pretty, lazy times— / how nice to be a frog!” Stock’s fluid watercolor illustrations create a fitting atmosphere, with lush surroundings that invigorate the scenes with warmth. Emily’s white clothing always contrasts dramatically with Carlo’s black coat. A closing note tells how Carlo, who lived to be 16, was Emily’s only dog, and he was not only an integral part of her life but a creative inspiration as well. Further back matter includes sources of quotations and additional information about Emily’s life. A memorable introduction to an important poet. —Julie Cummins

Kirkus Reviews

Emily Dickinson did have a love interest. His name was Carlo.

He was a dog, a Newfoundland, a great, slobbering, shaggy mess of a creature, which undercuts any notions of primness modern readers may harbor of Miss Dickinson. As Figley draws forth their gathering affection, she reveals important aspects of Dickinson’s relationship to the world, her deep-running shyness that led to a reclusive life. But her time with Carlo, some 16 years, was full of beauty and meaning, as expertly coaxed from her poems and letters. The path to her brother’s house, “just wide enough for two who love”; “I started early, took my dog, / And visited the sea.” They were a couple, surely—they shared sweeps of time, they endured separations, they went calling—and when the end came for Carlo, Dickinson did not dodge the sting: “ ’Twas my one glory— / Let it be / Remembered / I was owned of thee.” And if a moodiness still pervades the proceedings, something blue, the tone is lifted by Stock’s watercolors, which are as drenched in color as a sun room painted by Childe Hassam.

A pleasing little window into Dickinson’s life and an invitation to learn more about the fresh-breathed poet from Amherst. (Picture book/biography. 5–8)

New York Journal of Books

Emily and Carlo by Marty Rhodes Figley gives additional insight into the life of the famous poet Emily Dickinson. Ms. Dickinson, who was born in 1830, at age 19 received a puppy from her father during the winter of 1849–1850. A long and close relationship ensued.

This book, with soft, watercolor illustrations by Catherine Stock, tells the story of an odd pair—a tiny, reclusive poet and a big friendly Newfoundland dog who were constant companions for 16 years. Together they explore the woods and world near Amherst, Massachusetts.

Carlo, her “shaggy ally,” goes everywhere with Emily. They walk to a pond to look at the frogs, visit friends and take them treats, and visit Emily’s brother’s house right next door, where Emily plays the piano and Carlo romps with the children. And there are times when Emily simply shares her dreams as well as her poems while Carlo listens. Young readers will enjoy the peaceful mood that the book evokes and may be encouraged to further explore the life of this famous American poet.

In her notes at the back of the book, the author points out that the italicized words in the story are taken directly from Emily Dickinson’s poems and letters. She explains that the main events in the story are true—although she has added some fictional details. The backmatter also gives a bibliography, additional information about Emily Dickinson, and sources for the quotations.

The lyrical text and colorful illustrations of Emily and Carlo will capture the hearts of young picture book readers. –Phyllis J. Perry. Author of Pandas’ Earthquake Escape, It Happened in Rocky Mountain National Park, Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Colorado History, and Bold Women in Colorado History.

School Library Journal

The titular duo is Emily Dickinson and her dog, a present from her father to keep her company when her siblings leave home. Figley uses Dickinson's connection to her large, hairy Newfoundland both to re-envision the renowned recluse as a person with a long, loving relationship and to make her seemingly austere life more accessible to younger readers. Her partially imagined narrative recounts the poet's 16-year friendship with her pet, from their rambles around the woods and meadows of Amhert to their separation during Emily's trips to medical treatment and their final parting when Carlo dies of old age. The author draws on Dickinson's letters and poems to flesh out her subject's fondness for her "shaggy ally" and includes quotes throughout. At first glance, the book design is fairly commonplace; the choice of watercolors to capture a 19th-century female within a flower-filled backdrop does little to distinguish this title from other historical picture books. However, Stock's paintings bring unexpected warmth and happiness to Dickinson's usually sober image. Strong, busy strokes convey a sense of texture and vibrancy in the New England landscape. While animal lovers will appreciate this gentle story, readers not hooked by an inherent sense of empathy for a fellow pet owner might find the narrative plain or overlook the subtle charms of Stock's art. Still, Figley's introduction has greater appeal for those unfamiliar with the poet than the strightforward, chapter-book biographies currently in print. Libraries that own Michael Bedard's Emily (Doubleday, 2007), and Jeanette Winter's Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World (Farrar, 2002) may consider this an additional purchase, while those without picture-book coverage of the poet will find it worthwhile. –Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI


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ISBN: 978-1-58089-274-2

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-075-1
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 5-8
Page count: 32
8 x 10

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