Brown Girl DreamingWoodson has long been one of my favorite writers, drawing readers into emotionally powerful stories. Here she digs deep into her own childhood, writing in free verse to capture the images and feelings that come with those memories. Her language is rich in metaphor and imagery, exploring the way memories stay with us.
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen / Penguin, 2014
winner of 2014 National Book Award for Young People
Your local library
*best new book*
"My grandmother tells us all thisAs I read Woodson's memoir, I'm filled with the love for my own grandfather. Even though he was so very different than Woodson's grandfather, the strength of her memories evoke my own remembrances. I feel "the weight of our grandparents' love like a blanket with us beneath it, safe and warm."
as we sit at her feet, each story like a photograph
we can look right into."
But most of all, I love reading how Woodson talks about her dream of becoming a writer, her realization that words and stories are her special gift: "songs and stories and whole new worlds tucking themselves into my memory." Woodson excels at conveying her particular memories, but also connecting her life to a universal experience.
"How can I explain to anyone that storiesWhen I first read Brown Girl Dreaming last spring, I wondered how children would respond to it: Was this more of a book that adults would appreciate? Will children relate to her journey? Throughout the fall, I've watched it light a spark in students. It isn't the book for every child, but it is a truly special book for those it reaches. I just wish you could have seen two fourth graders who read it together and gushed how they see themselves in Woodson's words.
are like air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out
over and over again."
I am excited that my students have nominated Brown Girl Dreaming for our Emerson 2015 Mock Newbery. It will be fascinating to hear our passionate readers talk about what this book meant to them, whether they see Woodson's writing as distinguished and how it compares to other books they've read this year.
Teachers will also love using excerpts to inspire their students' own writing. Here are two of my favorite images:
"The empty swing set reminds us of this--
that what is bad won't be bad forever,
and what is good can sometimes last
a long, long time.
Even Coraandhersisters can only bother us
for a little while before they get called home
"When I read, the words twistPlease share this exceptional book with children who want to savor language, revel in memories and dream of being a writer.
twirl across the page.
When they settle, it is too late.
The class has already moved on.
I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them
then blow gently,
watch them float
right out of my hands."
Here are some interviews with Jacqueline Woodson I have especially loved reading, watching and listening to:
- Jacqueline Woodson Brown Girl Dreaming author video, Penguin YouTube channel
- Jacqueline Woodson NPR interview, September 2014
- Poet-to-Poet interview: Carol Boston Weatherford interviews Jacqueline Woodson
- SLJ Day of Dialog keynote speech (video), June 2014
©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books