“But on paper, things can live forever. On paper, a butterfly never dies.”

Brown Girl Dreaming

By: Jacqueline Woodson brown-girl-dreaming

Genre: Poetry – Free Verse

Published: Puffin Books – New York, NY, August, 28th, 2014

Awards: Coretta Scott King Award – 2015, Newbery Honor – 2015, National Book Award for Young People’s Literature – 2014, NAACP Image Award – 2015, Sibert Honor Winner – 2015, and the E.B. White Read Aloud Award – 2015

Theme:  This free verse poetic tale covers many themes, as a young girl battles being African American in the South – where freedom is supposed to be real. As the aspect of freedom is explored in this book, other themes such as: family, equality, racism, friendship, and belonging.

Summary: Jacqueline Woodson lives in a world of uncertainty. Plagued by the narrow mindset of many white Americans in the south – “Jackie” struggles with the move to South Carolina and subsequent visits as she and her family later move to New York. Jackie attempts to come to terms with the narrow mindsets, but also battles an internal battle of finding her own personal identity away from the strict mindsets of her teachers and family. Jackie views the world in a way that no one seems to understand – and attempts to find her way through one particular avenue.

Response: What elements of the author’s style and language drew you into the book? Explain and give examples.

Generally, I enjoyed how the book was written from the author’s own perspective and life experience. As well, the authors style – written completely in free verse – helps to eloquently tell the story in a song like fashion. Some parts of the text are written in scattered perspectives, and others simply flow as her mind pours with ideas and thoughts in a way that makes us all wonder and think about life as we know it.

“No past.No future.
Just this perfect now.”

“When we can’t find my sister, we know / she is under the kitchen table, a book in her hand, / a glass of milk and a small bowl of peanuts beside her. / We know we can call Odella’s name out loud, / slap the table hard with our hands, / dance around it singing ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ / so many times the song makes us sick / and the circling makes us dizzy / and still / my sister will do nothing more / than slowly turn the page.”

“I do not know if these hands will become Malcolm’s—raised and fisted or Martin’s—open and asking or James’s—curled around a pen. I do not know if these hands will be Rosa’s or Ruby’s gently gloved and fiercely folded calmly in a lap, on a desk, around a book, ready to change the world . . .”

“Sometimes, I don’t know that words for things,
how to write down the feeling of knowing
that every dying person leaves something behind.”

“Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.”


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