Posted in 2014-2015 Club, Not Mock Newbery

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl DreamingSummary:  Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

Nancy Paulsen


4 thoughts on “Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

  1. Brown Girl Dreaming had a lot of characters, a lot of settings, a lot of themes, a lot of plots and therefore, a lot of pages. Jacqueline Woodson has won the Newbery Honor multiple times and through the writing style, it was obvious she is a talented writer, but this particular book was not as distinguished as I expected. Because this was her biography, she couldn’t really manipulate the plot which was part of the problem. There were so many scenes that after a while, they all started blurring together. The same thing happened with the numerous characters and once in a while, I became confused with who was who within her family. The theme was one of the stronger criteria, however I think it could have been a bit clearer. One thing that was different in this book was that the main theme of the book didn’t seem to be segregation like most stories set in that time period, but seemed to be more centered on the main character finding her place. This was illustrated by her family’s constant moving and the way her siblings all were known for something but she still had to find her place within them. No surprise, she found it through her writing. Of course, segregation was still a big part of the book and I think Jacqueline portrayed it very well. The writing style fit the story well and was the best criteria. The words she used in her verse brought the setting to life and made the normal dry biography, more flowing and touching. Overall, Brown Girl Dreaming was a really inspirational read and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a unique biography or beginning writers needing encouragement. Unfortunately, I would not pick this book as my winner. Comparing it to Revolution however, I think Brown Girl Dreaming was stronger because of its writing style, but they each had the same problem of not having all their criteria fit well enough together to make sense or to hook the reader.

  2. This book is both a biography and a novel-in-verse, and I think that the fact that it is in verse really helped the story become more interesting than just your usual prose biography. The poems helped me become interested in the plot, and in fact those poems were my favorite part of the book. They flowed and had breaks in the right places, so they really felt like poems, not just sentences separated by spaces like in some novels-in-verse.
    I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how the end of the book seemed too long, but I don’t think the end was a problem. In the way the poems changed style slightly I was able to see that the end was near, and resolutions to the problems presented in the book were given in a way that was both satisfying and open-ended. After all, the end of the book is not the end of Ms. Woodson’s life, rather just the point in her life where she began to feel comfortable with her writing. At that point in her life, she didn’t know what would happen in the future, and that sense is given in the book.
    I personally found the middle of the book to be a bit lacking. The plot seemed to get a bit jumbled, and I found that certain scenes bled together. But, as I said, the end helped remedy anything the middle was missing.
    I, too, found the theme to be very strong. “Finding your place” was a very clear message in the book, and the author’s own experiences relayed that well.
    Unfortunately I wouldn’t say that it is in my top seven, mainly because of the middle’s jumbled storyline. However, I did enjoy reading this book and would recommend it to anyone aged twelve to fourteen, especially if they enjoy reading poetry.

    1. Olivia, do you think the middle plot being jumbled and scenes bled together because that is how her life was at that time? Was it a style of writing to convey her circumstances?

      1. The subjects of the scenes at the middle of the book were all very different, but the writing style of the poems became very similar at that time, which contributed to me feeling as though each scene was increasingly alike, and therefore the sequence of them became slightly jumbled in my mind. That could have been because the author felt like her life was monotonous at that time, but the complexity of the scenes didn’t convey that to me. It was purely the writing of the poems that made the middle seem, to me at least, to be a bit too close in style for me.
        I hope that answered your question, Ms. Martha. 🙂

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