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  • Writer's pictureLaura L. Zimmerman

Book Review: ‘brown girl dreaming’ by Jacqueline Woodson

I picked this book up because the title intrigued me enough to take a closer look… and then the beautiful cover finished the job of convincing me it just had to be read. ‘brown girl dreaming’ is written by Jacqueline Woodson, author of many award winning middle grade books, including this one, which received the Newberry Honor and Coretta Scott King Award.

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** ‘Nothing in the world is like this – a bright white page with pale blue lines. The smell of a newly sharpened pencil the soft hush of it moving finally one day into letters.’ **

Synopsis: 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.

The short: Is it possible to give more than 5 stars out of 5?? Because if any book has ever deserved a higher rating than physically possible, it is certainly this book! 

The long: I’ll admit, when I first dove into this book, I was thrown by the fact that it is an autobiography written in free verse. (If I had read the description I would’ve have known, but I sort of skipped that part. Silly me.) It took a bit of adjustment at first, since some of the poems were only 1 line long. But after I fell into the groove of how she tells the story of her childhood, through free verse poem, I saw that I couldn’t put it down.

** ‘Once, I saw my never-ever-barefoot-outside-in-the-city mother take off her sandals, stand at the curb and let the cool water run over her feet. She was looking up at the tiny piece of sky. And she was smiling.’ ** 

Stepping back in time, to an era of civil unrest in our country unlike anything I’ve ever known, and further, learning about what it was like to grow up within that prejudice as a young African-American girl rooted in the south and New York, was simply awe-inspiring. These are the things we are not taught in school, the feelings and emotions that cannot be conveyed through textbooks. I felt like I became a part of Woodson’s family, taking it hard when there was trouble, or with the passing of one of her relatives. The connection I felt to this little brown girl with a learning disability who just wanted to write, despite the fact her teachers saw her as anything but intelligent, is something I will not soon forget. I honestly can’t count the number of times I cried while reading this novel – many times simply because of the beauty of the words she so eloquently put together.

It is no surprise that Ms. Woodson is a winner of multiple awards, and now that I’ve experienced a part of her world, I am forever blessed. I honestly don’t think it’s going too far to say that when you read something written by Jacqueline Woodson, you are reading a work by one of the greatest writers of our generation.

I will have my own daughters read this, as soon as each of them are of age, and it will definitely be at the top of my list to suggest to others, both children and adults. ‘brown girl dreaming’ is an inspiration to all, young and old, from all walks of life. 

** ‘But I don’t want to read faster or older or any way else that might make the story disappear too quickly from where it’s settling inside my brain, slowly becoming a part of me. A story I will remember long after I’ve read it for the second, third, tenth, hundredth time.’ **

Well done, Jacqueline Woodson. Thank you for giving us such a precious gift. God bless.

Happy reading, friends.

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