by Jacqueline Woodson

A Reflection by Allison Hiblong

I picked up Brown Girl Dreaming last summer. The cover with clouds in the sky and butterflies flying around drew my attention to it. The three awards (Newberry Honor, Coretta Scott King Award, and National Book Award) on the cover convinced me this will be a great book, and it is.

My favorite part about this book that I didn’t know when I picked it up, is that it is poetry. Woodson used poetry to write her story. It was exactly the type of book I needed last summer to get me back into reading regularly.

Woodson used her poetry to allow me the opportunity to see her early life. While this isn’t an autobiography in the traditional sense, this book does tell Woodson’s story from her perspective as a little girl who was born in Ohio and grew up in South Carolina and New York City in the 1960s-1970s. These poems include family stories about her birth, and her uncle’s death. But also daily events such as attending church, riding a bus, and getting candy from her grandfather.

Woodson has a way with words. She can use a poem that is 3 lines and seems simple, but it makes a huge statement. For an example:

“How to listen #2”
In the stores downtown
we’re always followed around
just because we’re brown

Then you come across a poem as simple a topic as the letter J.

“The Beginning”
I cannot write a word yet but at three,
I now know the letter J
love the way it curves into a hook
that I carefully top with a straight hat
the way my sister has taught me to do.
Love the sound of the letter and the promise
that one day this will be connected to a full name.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book of poetry. I have a number of poets in my home collection; Jacqueline Woodson has earned a spot among them.

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