[Brown Girl Dreaming]: A Review

Hi friends, and happy September!

Hope you are enjoying the beginnings of fall. We’re ready for all things autumn around here. My thoughts are tender and poignant the last few days with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Although not a British citizen, I have a deep love and respect for the Queen and the entire United Kingdom. Grateful for her extraordinary life and praying for the royal family and the entire UK at this difficult time. Thank you, Your Majesty, for your incredible service and unparalleled reign!

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Today I am thrilled to be sharing a review of a recent read of mine that has stuck with me in the weeks after I finished it. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a compelling, unique novel in verse that really stuck with me. A National Book Award winner and Newbery Honor book, this book is simply beautiful!

This was my first time reading Jacqueline Woodson’s work and I was blown away. I admire her writing style and the ways she allows her stories to speak for themselves without becoming overly political or dramatic. I would love to read more of her books. Share your favorites in the comments!

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Book Summary: “Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

I love novels in verse and Woodson so beautifully tells her stories through her poetry. Her words are beautiful, smooth, full of incredible imagery. I love the way she uses metaphors and nature to connect with her own experiences. The way the text slides down the page or the “how to listen” poems that are concise but say so much. The titles speak just as strongly as the poems themselves full of meaning and creativity. I was pulled into the stories she tells from the first few poems. And I think the poetic genre offers a unique look into her childhood experiences that prose could not offer.

The storytelling is fantastic. I was gripped by the journey Woodson takes us on through her childhood and the different places she calls home. The differences between her school years in New York City and her summers with her grandparents in the South are stark but the surprising similarities are equally compelling. I loved the details throughout the book — her best friend playing together on their street, exchanging dinners from their moms’ kitchens, weeding the garden, her little brother’s features, food and drink at every stage of her childhood, her relationships with her grandparents and mother, the rain outside her NYC apartment, the ways she understands God. I really enjoyed the details that build these compelling stories.

So interesting to read a story about a very volatile time in Civil Rights history but through the eyes of a child. Woodson incorporates the issues of the time without being preachy or overbearing. The fight for equality becomes part of her story not the only part or even the biggest part. I thought it was so interesting to read the different ways she feels like an outsider because of her accent or where she spends time both in the North and the South. But it’s still a bit removed from the actual violence and intensity of the time. The way she describes her perspective was powerful and memorable. An important novel about this time period.

This is a moving, important memoir. The free verse is incredible, the details are beautiful, and the stories are rich with emotion, strength, and power. I think it’s an important one for adults, teens, and upper middle grade students alike to read. Really enjoyed this one!

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What are some of your favorite novels set in the civil rights era?
What are your favorite Jacqueline Woodson novels?

6 thoughts on “[Brown Girl Dreaming]: A Review

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