There was lots of buzz about author Jacqueline Woodson at the Amerian Library Association Midwinter meeting last week after she won a John Newbery Medal Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and a Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for her latest book, Brown Girl Dreaming. This book also won the National Book Award. If you are waiting to read the book from the library like I am, consider reading some of her other award-winning books while you wait. Then come back and tell me what you thought of this one. Reviews posted below are my own.
This is a 2009 Newbery Honor Award winner for this author and one of the best books I have read in a long time. Spanning a two year time frame beginning in 1995, just before Tupac is shot the first time and ending after his fatal killing, D Foster enters the life of two best friends, Neeka and the narrator, whose name we never learn. This is a quiet story filled with many tough issues including fostering, homosexuality, jail, shootings, fatherlessness, and dreams. The author is able to incorporate all these into a flawless, concise story. I was left wondering how she did it. Tupac and his life and rap lyrics are the back drop to the 11-year-old girls trying to figure out their Big Purpose in life. As they mature, they understand that Tupac is talking about them and people like them- African Americans living in Queens, New York. They learn about friendship and freedom, and that even if one has to leave to go live with her real mother after years of fostering, that friendship can survive. Highly recommended for readers grades 4-8.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, And sings the tune - without the words, And never stops at all. - Emily Dickinson
The theme of hope runs throughout the book. Frannie can't quite figure out what the poem means, but she hopes her new baby brother or sister will thrive inside her mother. Not like Baby Lila who had died and the baby after that. Her older brother Sean was born deaf and her mother calls Franny God's Gift. She even has pox marks on her palms to show for it. Her mother thought the poem probably meant she needed to be looking forward instead of backward all the time. At school, the new boy at school looks white but he say's he's not. Both his parents are black. He looks so different with his long curly hair that the kids all call him Jesus Boy. He also knows some sign language, but he doesn't know where he learned it. Frannie's best friend Samantha begins to believe that he really is Jesus, sent down to live with them. The class bully Trevor tells him he needs to go back to the other side of the highway. But Frannie thinks she can be friends with a white boy. The class gets into discussions about race and religion and their individual fears become apparent throughout the book. This book was recently chosen as a Newbery Honor book for 2008, naming it as one of the best books written for children in 2007. Most suitable for kids in grades 4-6.
"This whole book's a poem 'cause every time I try to tell the whole story my mind goes Be quiet!"
In just 100 pages, this collection of poems tells the story of fifth grader Lonnie Collins Motion (Locomotion) following the death of his parents in a fire. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, has the class write poetry and it is through this that Lonnie is able to grieve and talk about the situations troubling him. For instance, he and his younger sister, Lily, have been separated, and he misses her very much. And though she has been adopted, Lonnie lives in a foster home with Miss Edna who has two grown sons, and he isn't sure he likes her. He talks about a new kid at school who is from the country. He expresses his feelings when a classmate goes to the hospital for sickle cell anemia. And the love he feels for his little sister is unmistakable as he devises a way to spend time with her. This would be especially recommended for inner-city kids who could identify with the environment portrayed, but it is good for reluctant readers too due to the low word count. Though geared towards grades 4-6, older readers will appreciate the various types of poetry presented as well. This title won a Coretta Scott King Honor in 2004.
This is the sequel to Locomotion, continuing the story of Lonnie Collins Motion, but unlike the first book which was written in poems, this one uses letters written by Lonnie to his sister Lili who lives with a different foster family. He's decided that he will write as much as he can about the time before they are able to live together again, as the "rememberer" as Lili called it. One reason for the lack of poems is because his new 6th-grade teacher has told Lonnie that he is not a poet until he has something published. These words not only effect his poetry writing, but his overall school grades as well. But when another teacher takes over for his pregnant teacher, he is once again encouraged to write his poetry. As a backdrop to Lonnie's school troubles, where he is terrible at math, the story of Miss Edna's son Jenkins is brought to the forefront. He has been fighting in a war and is missing. Lonnie thinks a lot about peace and begins to end his letters to his sister with "Peace, Locomotion". Also, Miss Edna's other son, who returned home at the end of Locomotion,is back and studying to become a teacher which makes Lonnie laugh because Miss Edna has told him stories about how bad Rodney was in school as a child. He provides wise words to Lonnie, though, about how kids are really smart but sometimes don't know that they are. A lot of tough issues, including the recovery of Jenkins who has lost a leg, how Lonnie fits into his changing foster family, and the fact that Lili is now calling her foster mother "Mom" are covered in very few words. This book is excellent on CD and won a 2010 Odyssey Honor for recorded books. Highly recommended for grades 4-6.