Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown girl dreaming it’s the story of a girl finding her voice and her purpose. If there’s a theme to children’s literature this year it is in the relationship between stories and lies. Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener and Margi Preus’s West of the Moon both spend a great deal of time examining the relationship between the two.

The short poems are a gift too and made me think of April when the Academy of American Poets leads a nationwide celebration called Poem in Your Pocket Day. There are plenty of candidates for poems you can keep in your pocket in “Brown Girl Dreaming.” I especially loved the series of numbered short poems, threaded throughout the book, called “How to Listen.” This is No. 8:

Do you remember . . . ?
someone’s always asking and
someone else, always does.

For young readers in the process of discovering what Anna Julia Cooper so beautifully called “when and where I ­enter,” there are poems galore. Poems about sibling rivalry, poems about parents who don’t take no mess, poems about grown-ups who make a mess of things and, most poignantly, poems about the friends who help see you through. Such as this one, in “Maria.”

Late August now
home from Greenville and ready
for what the last of the summer brings me.
All the dreams this city holds
right outside — just step through the door and walk
two doors down to where
my new best friend, Maria, lives. Every morning,
I call up to her window, Come outside
or she rings our bell, Come outside.
Her hair is crazily curling down past her back,
the Spanish she speaks like a song
I am learning to sing.
Mi amiga, Maria.
Maria, my friend.

This is a book full of poems that cry out to be learned by heart. These are poems that will, for years to come, be stored in our bloodstream.It’s the book adults will wish they’d read as children. It’s the book that hundreds of thousands of children will read and continue to read for decades upon decades upon decades. It’s Woodson’s history and our own. It is amazing.

Book: Brown girl dreaming

Author: Jacqueline Woodson


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