Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Enormous Smallness: A Story of e.e. cummings

Burgess, Matthew (Author)
Di Giacomo, Kris (Illustrator)
Enchanted Lion Books 2015. 60 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9781592701711 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 811
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, figurative language, language conventions, layout, multimodal

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

The distinct style of e.e. cummings’ poetry is brought to life in this highly visual biography. Readers learn about the poet’s love of words and word play, and his fascination with rhythm and sounds. The story traces sources of inspiration in his life, from a childhood cottage to a treehouse in his backyard and, later on, his life in New York City and his time in Paris during World War I. The adversity he faced for his creative risks is a central theme, as is the importance of the many people who supported him.

Cummings’ style is evident throughout the book. Multiple fonts tell the story, often imitating the type style Cummings used for his own poems: words and quotes that wind playfully, stretch crookedly or, sometimes, sit quietly on the page. The real and the imaginary merge to portray Cummings’ thought process, as letters float subtly through the sky or on banners, as if coming directly out of his mind to form his poems.

Quirky collages in muted browns, reds and greens intermingle with the text. “His poems were his way of saying YES, YES to the heart and the roundness of the moon, to birds, elephants, trees, and everything he loved” is accompanied by the silhouette of an elephant, a puff coming from his trunk with the word “yes” inside. Readers may notice barely detectable words and letters tucked into unlikely places: on an apartment wall, falling from the sky or in the clouds themselves.

Several of Cummings’ poems are reprinted, offering a taste of his work. A timeline and an author’s note add details to Cummings’ life and his connection with the author.

  •  

    Read the poem, “the/sky/was”. How is it similar or different from other poems you are familiar with? Share your opinion of this poem.

  •  

    Cummings loved to observe. Go for a picture walk and explore his world as portrayed by the illustrator. From the pictures, start imagining his story.

  •  

    As you read, make note of the people who influenced Cummings to become a writer. Do you have any talents that have been nurtured? What talents do you hope will become important in your adult life?

  •  

    Look for examples of ordinary things that inspired Cummings. Try writing your own poem in a similar style.

  •  

    Multimodal texts use two or more modes in various combinations. Here, visual codes (colour, page layout, subject, point of view) work with written text and elements of graphic design (font, colour). Discuss the use of these elements by sharing a double-page spread prior to reading the text.

  •  

    e.e. cummings wrote: “It takes courage to grow up & become who you really are.” In small groups, discuss what this quotation might mean and how it relates to the text.

  •  Use excerpts from the narrative or select poems to use as models for the production of verse poetry. Select and discuss the potential models prior to making notes in a reading-writing notebook.
  •  

    e.e. cummings loved to observe the world. Go for a picture walk and explore his world as portrayed by the illustrator. From the pictures, start imagining his story.

  •  

    As the story is read aloud, create a timeline of Cummings’ life. Compare it to the chronology at the end of the book.

  •  

    Create a character map for Cummings. On one side, write about his physical traits; on the other, his character traits.

  •  

    Using teacher-recommended online search tools, research information about Cummings. Collate your class findings into a graphic organizer.

  •  

    As you read, make note of the people who encouraged Cummings to become a writer. List present-day jobs or careers that require good writing skills.

  •  

    Some have criticized Cummings for breaking the rules of poetry and creating his own style. What are those rules and who established them? Do they change? Research and use a creative way to display your findings.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To use information
  • To use information and communications technologies
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Media Literacy
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Career Development
  • Personal Development
  • Visual Arts