|Brown girl dreaming|
Author: Woodson, Jacqueline
The author shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South.
Download a Teacher's Guide
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.30
Points: 5.0 Quiz: 168140
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 8.40
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 64354
Newbery Honor, 2015
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor, 2015
Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2015
Kirkus Reviews (+) (07/15/14)
School Library Journal (07/01/14)
Booklist (+) (08/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (09/14)
The Hornbook (+) (00/09/14)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 08/01/2014 *Starred Review* What is this book about? In an appended author’s note, Woodson says it best: “my past, my people, my memories, my story.” The resulting memoir in verse is a marvel, as it turns deeply felt remembrances of Woodson’s preadolescent life into art, through memories of her homes in Ohio, South Carolina, and, finally, New York City, and of her friends and family. Small things—ice cream from the candy store, her grandfather’s garden, fireflies in jelly jars—become large as she recalls them and translates them into words. She gives context to her life as she writes about racial discrimination, the civil rights movement, and, later, Black Power. But her focus is always on her family. Her earliest years are spent in Ohio, but after her parents separate, her mother moves her children to South Carolina to live with Woodson’s beloved grandparents, and then to New York City, a place, Woodson recalls, “of gray rock, cold and treeless as a bad dream.” But in time it, too, becomes home; she makes a best friend, Maria, and begins to dream of becoming a writer when she gets her first composition notebook and then discovers she has a talent for telling stories. Her mother cautions her not to write about her family, but, happily, many years later she has—and the result is both elegant and eloquent, a haunting book about memory that is itself altogether memorable. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2014 Noted novelist Woodson here turns the narrative lens on herself, chronicling her childhood in a sequence of titled free-verse poems. She begins with the story of her family before she arrived in it, her Ohio-born father coming from a long line of pioneering free African Americans, her southern mother missing South Carolina, leaving young Jacqueline with two regional identities (“I am born Negro here and Colored there”). Not long after Jacqueline is born, her parents split up, and little Jacqueline, her two siblings, and their mother move in with their mother’s parents in South Carolina, against the backdrop of early 1960s sit-ins and marches. Soon, though, their mother seeks a new life in New York City, and the kids sadly leave their beloved grandparents behind to find themselves—and a new baby brother—in Brooklyn. It’s there that young Jacqueline meets her best friend, Maria, and where her love of stories turns into a talent for writing. The effect of this confiding and rhythmic memoir is cumulative, as casual references blossom into motifs and characters evolve from quick references to main players. Losses demarcate Jacqueline’s experience, such as the death of an uncle who died before her birth, the leaving behind of her father, the tragic accidental death of a beloved aunt, the slow decline of the adored grandfather Jacqueline calls Daddy. That’s not to say her life is unhappy, though; these events are prominent landmarks in the family narrative that little Jackie loves to absorb, and she’s bolstered by supportive family at every step. The result is a sequence of revealing slices of life, redolent in sight, sound, and emotion, as the narrator moves from being the subject and recipient of stories to the teller of them. Woodson subtly layers her focus, with history and geography the background, family the middle distance, and her younger self the foreground; the result situates Jacqueline firmly in an era and familial context without destabilizing her centrality. She’s thrilled to discover Steptoe’s Stevie (“Someone who looked like me/ had a story”) because of its implications for her storytelling; “Learning from Langston” showcases her early love of writing and attachment to her best friend; when her uncle and then her mother adopt Afro hairstyles, it’s memorable because Jacqueline is forbidden to join in this glamorous grownup mode. Most vivid are those moments of Jacqueline’s growing realization of her talents and value, when her teachers praise her ability or when her uncle (“Keep making up stories”) encourages yarn-spinning that others view as lying. Eager readers and budding writers will particularly see themselves in the young protagonist and recognize her reveling in the luxury of the library and unfettered delight in words (an intoxication that at one point leads her to graffiti). Additionally, the similarities to Marilyn Nelson’s How I Discovered Poetry (BCCB 3/14)—the young African-American girl coming into her own during a turbulent time and discovering writing—will bring in that book’s fans. Woodson’s lyricism, resonance, and vibrant portraiture, though, make the book all her own; it’s a story of the ongoing weaving of a family tapestry, the following of an individual thread through a gorgeous larger fabric, with the tacit implication that we’re all traversing such rich landscapes. It will make young readers consider where their own threads are taking them. (See p. 73 for publication information.) Deborah Stevenson, Editor - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 07/01/2014 Gr 4–7—"I am born in Ohio but the stories of South Carolina already run like rivers through my veins" writes Woodson as she begins her mesmerizing journey through her early years. She was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1963, "as the South explodes" into a war for civil rights and was raised in South Carolina and then New York. Her perspective on the volatile era in which she grew up is thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse, (Martin Luther King is ready to march on Washington; Malcom X speaks about revolution; Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat only seven years earlier and three years have passed since Ruby Bridges walks into an all-white school). She experienced firsthand the acute differences in how the "colored" were treated in the North and South. "After the night falls and it is safe for brown people to leave the South without getting stopped and sometimes beaten and always questioned; We board the Greyhound bus bound for Ohio." She related her difficulties with reading as a child and living in the shadow of her brilliant older sister, she never abandoned her dream of becoming a writer. With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience, from her supportive, loving maternal grandparents, her mother's insistence on good grammar, to the lifetime friend she meets in New York, that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.