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Thursday, October 23, 2014

brown girl dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin. 2014. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"When I tell my family
I want to be a writer,
they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard
with your writing.
They say,
We hear you making up all
those stories.
We used to write poems."

That beautiful poem goes on to say:

It's a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
They say,
But maybe you should be a teacher,
a lawyer, 
do hair...

I'll think about it, I say.

And maybe all of us know

this is just another one of my

I have read this book twice now...and I know I will read it again, and then again. That is the power of words written brilliantly by one of my forever favorite authors! I think that you should share it with your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your students. It is a celebration of childhood, of family, of history and of story.

Written in free verse, it begins with her birth in 1963:

"I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio, USA -
a country caught

between Black and White."

There is so much here to love! It is Ms. Woodson's homage to her family, her upbringing, her life in Ohio, in South Carolina and in Brooklyn. As she grows, so does her need to write the stories that she hears, and then to create stories of her own. She is influenced by all that surrounds her, and by memories and stories from her childhood. Her voice is powerful and lyrical, honest and candid.

Gifts throughout her life allow her to explore her own gift - her passion for words. Her first notebook is a warm and lasting memory:

"I don't know how my first composition notebook
ended up in my hands, long before I could really write
someone must have known that this
was all I needed...

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."

Finding John Steptoe's Stevie at the library is a revelation:

"If someone has taken
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
I'd never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story."

Her love of Langston Hughes' poetry is an inspiration to her writing self, and a push to follow her own dreams. What a blessing for us that she speaks what is in her heart and hones her skills by penning 10 picture books, seven middle-grade novels, and 10 YA novels!

Take the time to savor the richness of her words. And, please listen to what the author has to say about her newest book in the following:

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