NONFICTION

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Abrams. Apr. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419734113.
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K-Gr 3–Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) was inspired to write poetry from an early age. When she wasn’t dreaming on her back porch, she was filling notebooks with observations about nature and everyday life in her Chicago neighborhood. Themes of racial injustice, hunger, and poverty stood alongside depictions of joy and wonder in her work. Brooks dedicated her life to writing; she won contests, got published, and eventually became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. The biography’s awestruck, reverent tone is matched by the gorgeous acrylic paintings. Bright palettes of pink, orange, blue, and green evoke the influence of nature in Brooks’s work. There is a lovely contrast between the illustrations of lush outdoor sunsets and the beautifully rendered moments that depict her home life. The only thing missing from the text is more excerpts from Brooks’s poetry. Shining a spotlight on the poet’s own words would have enriched the context of her life story and shown how life can influence art and vice versa. Extensive back matter includes a poem by 15-year-old Brooks titled “Clouds,” an author’s note, a time line, source notes, and a bibliography.
VERDICT A visually remarkable and inspiring introduction to the life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Recommended for purchase in most collections.

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