Let me begin by saying this is a novel in verse, meaning it is written in poetry. I used to say that I didn't like poetry, but I think I have to change my mind about that statement. When I was a fifth grade teacher, one of my favorite units to teach was our poetry unit. I loved reading poetry with fifth graders, and I loved reading poetry written by fifth graders. But, in my head, I still was not much of a poetry fan. So, I was still a bit worried about reading an entire book written in poetry. To top it off, the book is a memoir, and I do not really read many memoirs.
Having said that, I loved this book. I mean, loved it, loved it. Writing it in verse was perfect, setting a mood of thoughtful contemplation and nostalgia. Ms. Woodson grew up in both South Carolina and Brooklyn during the 1960s and 1970s. She addresses how she saw civil rights issues of the times, but the focus of the book is more on her family. She writes about the absence of her father, the guiding influence of her grandparents, her religious upbringing, and her mother's struggles as a single parent. The poetry gave the memories real emotion and beauty. Beware, you might get a bit emotional as you read! I don't know about you, but I always love a good cry during a book. If you like books about family, books about civil rights, books about strong characters, or just books that are beautifully written, you must read Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson.
I need to wrap this blog up by saying that I can't say I don't like poetry anymore. After reading Brown Girl Dreaming, I immediately read The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, another book in verse. The Crossover won the Newbery Medal this year, beating out Brown Girl Dreaming, a heavy favorite. Now, this book is about basketball, so I was predisposed to love it anyway, and I did. I sat down one evening, and I didn't get up until I was done. So, since two of my favorite books this year were written in verse, I must change my tune. Poetry rocks. It really does. The rhythm and rhyme can convey action, emotions, and events in a unique way without ever getting "boring." I'm a convert. Love live the novel in verse!
If you think this book sounds great, check out these other middle grades novels: