A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

illus. by Xia Gordon. 48p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Sterling. Jan. 2019. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454930884.
RedReviewStarK-Gr 3—Poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks's talent with words was evident from a very early age, as this lyrical biography reveals. Against the thrumming backdrop of Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, with its pulse of trains and blues, Brooks's story is that of a child whose parents believed in her. It is also the story of a gifted girl who learned to believe in herself despite the teasing of neighborhood bullies and despite the doubts of her teachers. When her teacher did not believe that eight-year-old Brooks wrote something as sophisticated as the work she submitted, Mrs. Brooks marched to the school to fight for her daughter's innocence. Gwen crafted a poem right on demand, proving her prodigious ability to her teacher and most importantly, to herself. "Gwen steps high on her walk home./Gwen smiles brightly./Gwen BELIEVES." Brooks went on to become the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize. Duncan presents the facts of Brooks's life through concise, powerful biographical poems arranged under Roman numeral headings, distinguishing her own poetry from interspersed poetry by Brooks. Gordon's spare but affecting illustrations flush the pages with warm rose gold tones, plums, browns, and lavender. Strength and exultation come through with each expressive scene. An author's note, timeline, suggested readings and bibliography all add to the informative nature and usefulness of this text.
VERDICT A stirring, accessible introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks and a must-have for all elementary collections.-Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

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