Enormous Smallness was named one of the "Best Children's Books of 2015" by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Huffington Post. Minneapolis Public Radio calls Enormous Smallness one of the year's Best Books to Give (And Get), The Wall Street Journal calls it a "biographical standout for 2015, and Booklist features it on their Lasting Connections 2015. Perhaps most amazingly, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings includes Enormous Smallness on her list of "The Best 15 Books of 2015."
"If ever a life story benefited from being told in the form of a picture book, it’s this biography of the poet E.E. Cummings, with mesmerizing art by Kris Di Giacomo. Strewing casual rhymes here and there, Matthew Burgess’ narrative follows the poet from cradle to grave." --Maria Russo, The New York Times READ HERE
"Burgess's first picture book introduces reader to E.E. Cummings, exploring his development as a poet from the verse he dictated to his mother as a child through to his adulthood. Befitting the subject, Burgess experiments with language, punctuation, and form: "He wanted his reader's eyes to be on tiptoes to, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new." Di Giacomo's capricious collages create a lively interplay between pictures and words, and visual motifs such as birds and elephants intermingle with samples of Cummings's work. Burgess delivers a thorough and lovingly crafted homage to a writer whose poems 'were alive with experimentation and surprise!'" –Publishers Weekly READ HERE
Enormous Smallness is available for order HERE. Or you can order from your local independent bookstore!
"The title of this book (Enormous Smallness) is perfect. Many of us think of poems as small things, but as much as anyone, E. E. Cummings showed us that even the smallest stanza could hold enormous meaning. Lovingly written (Burgess is himself a poet) and ingeniously illustrated, this book is a treasure for both fans of Cummings, as well as those discovering his poetry for the first time." –Minh Le, The Huffington Post READ HERE
"Burgess takes young readers from the birth of Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge in 1894 through his decades in Greenwich Village as an established poet. The economical text emphasizes his connections to the natural world, manifesting in his first poem, composed at the age of 3, and the loving support of his parents. Even as a boy, he played with words, inventing new ones and "squish[ing] others together." Burgess chooses details that will speak to child readers: Estlin's idyllic, streamside summers; his treehouse in Cambridge (equipped with a stove!); the encouragement of a favorite teacher; the "Krazy Kat" comic strips he affixed to his dorm walls; and especially, his effervescent, rule-breaking approach to writing poetry... An eminently friendly introduction to both the poet and his spirit—deceptively simple, just like its subject." –Kirkus (STARRED REVIEW) READ HERE
"This book is the author’s debut picture book, and as a poet and creative writing teacher he found a perfect venue for these words." –Carter Higgins, Design of the Picture Book READ HERE
"Beginning with a peek inside E. E. Cummings’ New York City apartment—his home for almost 40 years—Burgess quickly turns back to Cummings’ birth in 1894 to tell the story of how Edward Estlin became one of America’s most celebrated and original poets. From his loving and enchanted childhood, spent largely on Joy Farm in New Hampshire or in his tree house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, readers get a taste of Cummings’ delight in the natural world, which inspired much of his writing. His experiences in college and later driving an ambulance in France during WWI fueled his desire to make “new art” like Gertrude Stein and Paul Cézanne, leading him to create the playful, grammatically liberal style that came to define his poetry. As events in his life unfold, they are accompanied by poems demonstrating his experimental style and boundless imagination. — Julia Smith for Booklist (STARRED REVIEW) READ HERE
"The author, who teaches creative writing and composition at Brooklyn College, does a wonderful job of bringing e. e. cummings to life in this book, and provides readers with a chronology of events as well as a couple of pages of cummings’s poetry, plus an engaging author’s note and the names of several other books readers might want to look for if they want to learn more about the poet." –Bernie Goedhart, The Montreal Gazette READ HERE
"From the first lines of this picture-book biography of Edward Estlin Cummings (1894–1962), debut children's book author Matthew Burgess sets up the kind of juxtaposition the poet loved: "Inside an enormous city/ in a house on a very small street,/ there once lived a poet/ I would like you to meet."
The "enormous smallness" of the title stems from Cummings's experience as a small child encountering Nature's "illimitable being." Kris Di Giacomo's (My Dad Is Big and Strong) opening scene, in a spumoni ice cream–colored palette, shows a snapshot of the street framed by trees. She spotlights a bird on a branch, its song a flurry of floating letters. This is 4 Patchin Place in New York City, Cummings's home for nearly 40 years. "Peek inside and you will see/ the room where E.E. writes his poetry." The poet leans out of the window to witness the birdsong, just as he did as a boy in Di Giacomo's later images of his boyhood.
Downstairs, "the love of E.E.'s life," Marion Moorehouse, calls him to tea by ringing "an elephant/ with a bell in its belly." Several pages later, readers learn of the fascination young Estlin develops after seeing elephants at the circus and zoo. The bell beckons Cummings away from his typewriter, where he's composed the first stanza of "53": "may my heart always be open to little/ birds who are the secrets of living/ whatever they sing is better than to know/ and if men should not hear them men are old." Di Giacomo shows the lines entering Cummings as birdsong and he, as conduit, translates them onto the page. Burgess tells the poet's story through internal rhymes and wordplay characteristic of Cummings, while Di Giacomo's visual motif of birds and elephants appears on nearly every page.
The author includes major life events and poems, always circling back to a playfulness born in the poet's childhood and carried through his entire life, nurtured by parents and teachers. What makes this such a successful children's book is the author and artist's focus on Cummings's ability to channel and hold onto the inventiveness of childhood. In the closing poem, published after Cummings's death, he recalls himself as a boy: "who are you,little i/ (five or six years old)/ peering from some high/ window;at the gold/ of November sunset/ (and feeling:that if day/ has to become night/ this is a beautiful way)." Di Giacomo portrays the poet as a silhouette outline of his beloved birds, juxtaposed with his child-self at the window in a golden color that matches the clouds. He leaves the world with his heart still open "to little/ birds who are the secrets of living." --Jennifer M. Brown, Shelf Awareness READ HERE
"One day in 2007, when Brooklyn College lecturer Matthew Burgess led a “literary walk” of Greenwich Village, he was invited inside 4 Patchin Place, the former home of poet E. E. Cummings. The experience was an unforgettable one for him and led to the creation of his new biography, Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings, on shelves now with the playful and appealing multimedia artwork of Kris Di Giacomo. The book opens with three spreads of Cummings as an adult but then flashes back to his boyhood years, followed by his rise to fame as one of this country’s most famous poets. This biography, which the Kirkus review describes as an “eminently friendly introduction to both the poet and his spirit” (the first page, in fact, is a very real invitation to the reader to come meet the poet), does two things particularly well. First, it includes a handful of Cummings’ poems. Readers even get a peek into some of Cummings’ childhood poems. It also captures well how revolutionary Cummings’ work was at the time, while at the same time noting critics’ responses to his work. “e. e. liked to break the rules of rhythm and rhyme to make words,” Burgess writes. “Some people criticized him for painting with words. Others said his poems were TOO STRANGE, too small.” It’s an engaging, even inspiring biography, fitting for both fans of Cummings’ work, as well as those new to the man and his creations." –Julie Danielson, Kirkus READ HERE