This morning it was announced that Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This beautiful, emotional read was a fantastic choice that will stand tall next to previous winners like Katerine Erskine’s 2010 winner, Mockingbird and last year’s winner, The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata.
Woodson’s autobiographical book in verse tells the story of an African-American girl growing up split between the south and the north during a time of great change. Displaying the best of her powerful storytelling skills, Brown Girl Dreaming is as likely to make the reader think as feel. Passages examining her challenges with reading are made more powerful by her discovery of books that featured people that looked like her. At a time when the children’s book world is protesting the dearth of diverse literature for children, Woodson makes the best argument I’ve read for why it is important it is for kids to find themselves in what they read.
But like any great children’s book, I would recommend this to adults as well as kids. Woodson is a brilliant writer who finds beauty in pain and hope in hopelessness. She never shies away from complicated topics or speaking a tough truth. Adults will find comfort in her charming voice, while still examining their own childhoods and beliefs. Recommended for 4th grade and up, this book will easily appeal to longtime fans and readers new to Woodson’s work.