Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober is a wonderful picture book biography about one of my favorite of all poets. This one is written from the perspective of Frost’s eldest daughter, Lesley, at age fifteen. Their story opens with the Frosts just off the boat from England after having lived there for a few years. The Frosts return to America and are met with Papa’s success which had been elusive when they left: they disembark from the ship and Mama reads in the newspaper a review of Papa’s book recently published for the first time in America! Papa leaves his family at the train terminal and walks the fifteen blocks to his publisher’s office where he learns that yes, he has finally made an American success of his poetry writing. Lesley reminisces while she and her family wait at the train terminal, recounting their years in New Hampshire before they moved to England. Interspersed with Lesley’s thoughts are excerpts from Frost’s poems, usually in the context of what inspired him to write them. For example, Lesley remembers how Papa would leave Mama at home to rest during her pregnancies, and because he loved her so much, he would apologize for his absence with a bouquet of flowers and a verse:
They are yours, and be the measure
Of their worth for you to treasure,
The measure of the little while
That I’ve been long away.
The word picture that Bober paints through Lesley’s voice is of an extraordinarily loving and warm family, with poetic Papa at its head. Rebecca Gibbons’ ink, colored pencil, and watercolor illustrations are warm and child-like. This picture book biography includes an author’s note in which Bober provides more details about the Frosts (some of which is from her YA biography, A Restless Spirit: The Story of Robert Frost). Also included in the backmatter are quotes, photographs, and best of all, twelve of Frost’s poems. This book wasn’t shortlisted for the Cybils, but I give it a Highly, Highly Recommended. (Henry Holt and Co., 2013)
When I was young, I was so interested in baseball that my family was afraid I’d waste my life and be a pitcher. Later, they were afraid I’d waste my life and be a poet. They were right. –Robert Frost