BROWN GIRL DREAMING is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the 2015 Coretta Scott King Book Award, and received the 2015 Newbery Honor. It is a truly incredible, and in my opinion, essential read for ages 10 and up.
In her memoir, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her childhood growing up in an extremely unique and important time in American history. Though she was born in 1963 in Ohio, Woodson spent the beginning of her childhood growing up in segregated South Carolina. She is surrounded by contradictions; the infinite love of her grandparents, the torment of the Jim Crow laws, and the promise of the Civil Rights movement. Later she and her family move to Brooklyn where she must maneuver a new and dramatically different territory. Listening to the stories of her family young Woodson discovers her love of writing and desire to one day become a writer: “The first time I write my full name/Jacqueline Amanda Woodson/without anybody’s help/on a clean white page in my composition notebook, / I know/if I wanted to/I could write anything.”
The book is written in free verse. It is a triumph how Woodson manages to write so beautifully, but in such an accessible manner. BROWN GIRL DREAMING is deeply intimate and addresses extremely complicated and mature issues, yet Woodson does an impeccable job telling her story in a manner that is easy for children to digest. Her story is unflinchingly honest. Her poems are precious windows into her life that allow us to learn and feel as if we are growing up alongside her. I would recommend this book to teachers, because it lends itself to a wonderful discussion. I would also recommend this book to parents to read with their children and open the discussion of race and finding one’s identity at home.
Reviewed by : Elora Weil
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- “The writer’s passion for stories and storytelling permeates the memoir, explicitly addressed in her early attempts to write books and implicitly conveyed through her sharp images and poignant observations seen through the eyes of a child. Woodson’s ability to listen and glean meaning from what she hears lead to an astute understanding of her surroundings, friends, and family.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
- “Mesmerizing journey through [Woodson’s] early years. . . . Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse. . . . With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience . . . that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.” — School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
- “Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned. For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share.” — Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
- “[Woodson’s] memoir in verse is a marvel, as it turns deeply felt remembrances of Woodson’s preadolescent life into art. . . . Her mother cautions her not to write about her family but, happily, many years later, she has and the result is both elegant and eloquent, a haunting book about memory that is itself altogether memorable. — Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
- “Woodson uses clear, evocative language. . . . A beautifully crafted work.” — Library Media Connection, STARRED REVIEW
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
One Crazy Summer By Rita Williams-Garcia
Esperanza Rising By Pam Munoz Ryan
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry By Mildred D. Taylor
Number the Stars By Lois Lowry