Review: BROWN GIRL DREAMING / by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming, / by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin     ISBN     978039925218
MS (HS)     Grades 5-12     Rating:     5

brown girl dreaming
Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson presents a poetic memoir in Brown Girl Dreaming, a 2015 Newbery Honor Book — it also won the National Book Award and Coretta Scott King Award, and was nominated for the Sibert Honor Award.

Woodson shares her experience of growing up as an African American during the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. Brown Girl Dreaming covers her childhood during the Civil Rights movement. Her love of stories comes from her family, several aunts who were storytellers and helped her recall memories, both good and bad. She writes “that what is bad won’t be bad forever, and what is good can sometimes last a long, long time” (p.130).

Woodson tells her story in free verse. Her experiences paint vivid pictures for the reader. More than just a book of poetry, Woodson’s poems tell the stories of her memories of her family and her childhood. They are accessible and easy to understand by the reader.

The book opens with a family tree for both parents’ families and a poem by Langston Hughes (“Hold fast to dreams / For if dreams die / Life is a broken-winged bird / That cannot fly.”). There are five sections, followed by the author’s note, thankfuls (acknowledgements) and family photos. Woodson shares that this book is about “my past, my people, my memories, my story.” She writes about Columbus, Ohio – even though she was only a baby when she lived there, as well as Greenville, South Carolina.

Recommended for the classroom, public libraries and school libraries. Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is a biographical narrative that will inspire students as well as teach them history.

Carol R. Gehringer

Disclaimer: Book reviews are my opinion of books I either purchased or received free of cost from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 

–reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2015.