Poetry Friday: brown girl dreaming

brown girl

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

In this deeply moving collection of autobiographical poems, Jacqueline Woodson reflects on her childhood as a Southern-born, New York-raised African American girl in 1960s and 1970s America.

While every passage is memorable and moving in its own way, as a librarian and educator, I found stevie and me particularly poignant.

stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture book.

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.

Stevie.

I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this

maybe

I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books. We need to look beyond reading levels and lexiles and strive to connect young readers with books that speak to them, motivate them, and inspire them.

We need to do more, because our kids deserve nothing less.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.

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Harry Potter Spells Book Tag!

Thanks to the lovely ladies at The Book Wars I’m tackling the Harry Potter Spells Book Tag, which was first developed by Kimberley Faye Reads.

hp-spells-book-tag

Confession: I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the films, and they were OK, but nothing spectacular. I honestly have no clue what any of these spells mean, or what they do. I’m a children’s librarian who’s not a Harry Potter fan. There, I said it. Whew, that’s a weight off my shoulders.

And away we go!

1 - Accio

An upcoming release you can’t wait to get your hands on.

Ada Twist, Scientist / Andrea Beaty

This title, coming September 2016, is from the same creative team that brought us Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect, great picture books about kids pursuing their passions, even when no one around them seems to understand. Bonus points for featuring a girl obsessed with science!

2 - Alohomora

Favourite series starter.

The Black Company / Glen Cook

Glen Cook’s The Black Company is fantasy like you’ve probably never read it before – dark, gritty, violent, bleak, and pretty darn amazing. Undoubtedly the finest book in the series, this title served as inspiration for countless “dark fantasy” novels in the years that followed.

3 - Cheering Charm

A book that gave you all the fuzzy/warm feels.

George / Alex Gino

Words cannot describe how much feels this book gave me. While a lot of the book made me angry (mostly at a society that forces children to suppress their true identities and live in fear simply because they do not fit into the boxes that other people have assigned them), the ending made me all warm and fuzzy and hopeful. Feels.

4 - Aguamenti

A book that made you ugly cry.

See You At Harry’s / Jo Knowles

OK, so I’m bonafide sap who cries at credit card commercials, so take this for what you will, but whoo boy, this book made me cry. I don’t know about ugly crying, but there were definitely more than a few tears shed during the reading of this story. This is a fantastic book filled with fantastic characters, but be warned, you will likely need a tissue at the ready to deal with the sadness.

5 - Expecto Patronum

A character you’d consider to be your patronus.

OK, I don’t know if this is necessarily a patronus so much as a book incarnation, but I’m going with it. Junie B. Jones, the spirited kindergartener who just can’t seem to control her mouth and who calls it like she sees it, even when it gets her into trouble is like a little motor-mouth Jane. The parallels are eery. It’s like Junie and I are kindred spirits.

6 - Lumos

A book you intentionally spoiled for yourself.

The Terminal Man

The suspense! I was starting to get a little too stressed out by this thriller, so I skipped ahead just a couple of pages to make sure a character was going to be alright.

By the way, the tradition of the terrible book cover synopsis is a long and proud one (something the team at The Book Wars discusses in their Cover Wars series). “Watch this man become a homicidal maniac!” says the cover. “Ugh,” says the reader, “this book is full of math, computer science, psychology, medical ethics and history! Where’s the homicidal maniac alread?y” A fantastic book with an absolutely terrible and completely misleading cover.

7 - Imperio

A book you wish you could make everyone read.

George / Alex Gino

I wouldn’t want to make anyone read anything, but I do wish more people would take a look at George, or really any book featuring a trans* character. There’s still far too much ignorance, fear and hatred in our world, and not enough awareness and understanding around trans issues.

8 - Engorgio

A book/series you wish never ended.

Discworld / Terry Pratchett

Thankfully Terry Pratchett was a prolific writer, so there’s at least a good number of Discworld books available,  but there’s not nearly as many as I would happily devour.

9 - Wingardium Leviosa

An uplifting book.

Brown Girl Dreaming / Jacqueline Woodson

This elegant verse novel is a story of hope, determination, and the power of words to change a life. I think I would perhaps call this inspiring, rather than uplifting, and Woodson’s perfectly chosen words will touch readers deeply and profoundly. It’s particularly inspiring for educators, as it’s an ode to the power of the written word, and the impact an educator can have on a child’s life.

10 - Obliviate

A book you wish you could forget

I honestly think I’m going to skip this one, because I’m a serial DNF-er, and if I don’t like I book I simply don’t finish it.

11 - Anapneo

A book/series that got you out of a slump.

Sphere / Michael Crichton

I recently found myself in a terrible reading slump. My brain was a scattered mess, and I just couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything. Every book I picked up seemed overly complicated, too deep, too preachy, to hip, too everything. Out of desperation I decided to go back to basics and revisit one of my all-time favourite writers, whose books read like a blend of movie script and college text book – Michael Crichton.

Well, this definitely did the trick. Fast-paced and cleverly written, I devoured this title on a single commute, and the reading spark was lit once again.

12 - Jelly-Legs Jinx

A swoon worthy character.

I’m going to cheat here, and instead share…..

A swoon worthy author.

stre

sigh…..

Steven Johnson is the absolute swoon worthiest author I can think of. Not only is he cute as a button with those stunning blue eyes, he also plays the guitar (swoon), and writes fantastic narrative non-fiction (mega swoon), including one of my all-time favourite non-fiction titles, The Ghost Map. He is also a married father of three, but oh well, a girl can still dream….

13 - Aresto Momentum

A book that made you drop everything in order to finish it.

Ummm….OK, I was going to try and pick a book that wasn’t by Michael Crichton, but dang it, I just love me some Michael Crichton.

The Andromeda Strain

Holy crap, the suspense! Not the biggest fan of the ending (no spoilers, I promise), but the build up, holy smokes! I’ve actually reread this book a couple of times because I love it so much. It plays out like a movie in your brain. Awesome.

14 - Crucio

A book that was painful to read/a book that broke you.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe / Benjamin Alire Saenz

This novel about two young Mexican-American men is heart-rendingly beautiful and at times painful to read, but so very worth it. Life can just be so hard for some people sometimes, especially young people. Let’s all try to remember to choose kindness, because we can never know what other people are going through.

15 - Rictumsempra

A book that made you laugh out loud.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams

The original madcap, zany, side-splitting British science fiction classic. Have you read this series yet? If not, what are you waiting for? It’s insane, but in the best possible way.

16 - Expelliarmus

A book you wanted to fling away.

The Exorcist / William Peter Blatty

I read this book as a teenager, and was so freaked out at one point that I threw the book to the floor, just to get it away from me. Seriously, seriously creepy stuff.

17 - Portus

A fictional world you wish you could visit.

Middle Earth! I’d love to sit in Hobbiton and have a pint with the hobbits, or lounge around at The Last Homely House. I have been to New Zealand several times, though, which for some reason looks remarkably similar to Middle Earth…

18 - Stupefy

A plot twist you did not see coming.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd / Agatha Christie

Twisty and turny but not overly-complicated or too assured of its own cleverness, this is the epitome of a classic who-dunnit by one of the masters of the genre.

19 - Avada Kedavra

A character death that destroyed you.

It’s remarkably hard to do this one without giving away unwanted spoilers….

Chaos Walking / Patrick Ness

Somewhere in this trilogy is an incredibly brutal and painful and seemingly unnecessary death. You’ll know it when you find it.

20 - Finite Incantatem

Best concluding book in a series.

A Memory of Light / Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The death of Robert Jordan before the conclusion of his Wheel of Time series left many fans in a tizzy, wondering what would happen to the characters that we had all put so much bloody time into reading about (seriously, these books are massive). Hearing that the series would be finished by a different author I was sceptical, but holy smokes, was this ever a fitting end to the series! Brandon Sanderson is a fantastic fantasy author, and he stayed true to Jordan’s vision while bringing in his own unique style. Definitely a satisfying conclusion.

Whew, that was quite the post, thanks for tagging me, The Book Wars! This is actually the first thing I’ve ever been tagged in, so I feel like I’ve finally made it in the world of book / library blogging – I’m one of the cool kids now! 😉

Children’s books for the young and young-at-heart

“A children's story that can only be

Some children’s books stand the test of time, appealing to readers of all ages. Others offer levels of meaning that are only discovered at different stages of life. Here are a few children’s books that I would recommend to readers both young and young at heart.

Matilda / Roald Dahl

matildaA bright but neglected young girl finds solace both in reading and in the companionship of a devoted teacher in this classic by Roald Dahl. Dahl’s novels are so beloved by readers of all ages in part because of the way that Dahl never shies away from the darker, meaner, nastier side of life, which other children’s authors attempt to gloss over or cover with fluff. Dahl’s protagonists have real hurdles to overcome, but his baddies always get their comeuppance, often in satisfyingly gruesome ways, which makes for a wonderfully cathartic reading experience.

Watership Down / Richard Adams

watershipAs a child, I found this book both traumatic and confusing. A group of bunnies lose their woodland warren to human encroachment and must face terrible perils on their quest to find a new home. Incredibly complex, with elements of mythology, religion, philosophy, poetry and spiritualism (including references to a rabbit religion based around the spirit El-ahrairah), I struggled through this novel as a child, only to be enthralled by it as an adult.

The One and Only Ivan / Katherine Applegate

ivanIvan the gorilla has spent 24 years in captivity as an attraction in a shopping center, with an aging circus elephant and a stray dog for companions. Ivan’s orderly life is thrown into disarray when a baby elephant is added to the attraction, and when the cruel fate awaiting baby Ruby is revealed, Ivan realizes that he must take action if he is to give Ruby the life she deserves. The novel is written from the perspective of Ivan the gorilla, and takes the form of a journal. Deceptively simple, this is a heart breaker of a book that will tug at the heart strings of adult readers who will likely be better able to relate to the aging animal characters.

Brown Girl Dreaming / Jacqueline Woodson

brown girlI have seen this award-winning verse novel shelved in the children’s, teens and adult sections of local libraries, and considered both poetry and novel. Brown Girl Dreaming is a bit of everything, which is why it can appeal to so many readers. It has elements of a memoir, as the author recounts her childhood growing up as an African-American in the 1960s and 1970s. The protagonist is a child with whom child readers can relate, but the author reflects on her childhood from an adult perspective, which will resonate with adult readers. The verse novel format will appeal to fans of poetry, but the verse is unstructured enough as to appeal to readers of conventional prose as well. The most important fact of all, though, is that Woodson is capable of breathtakingly beautiful writing that will linger with readers long after the final pages has been turned.

The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupery

princeThough I am typically loathe to quote Wikipedia, the article for The Little Prince sums up my own thoughts quite beautifully:

Though ostensibly styled as a children’s book, The Little Prince makes several observations about life and human nature.[13] For example, Saint-Exupéry tells of a fox meeting the young prince during his travels on Earth. The story’s essence is contained in the lines uttered by the fox to the little prince: On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. (“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”)[14] Other key thematic messages are articulated by the fox, such as: Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. (“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”) and C’est le temps que tu as perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante. (“It is the time you have lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.”) The fox’s messages are arguably the book’s most famous quotations because they deal with human relationships.

A gentle, moving and bittersweet tale of loss, loneliness, doubt, hope, redemption, and the search for meaning in the modern world, this classic novella reveals new depths as it is reread over time.

What children’s novels do you think have crossover appeal to adult readers?

brown girl dreaming

I recently bought my ticket to see the inspirational Jaqueline Woodson speak in Vancouver on May 8, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I recently picked up Woodson’s free-verse memoir brown girl dreaming, and words cannot express how deeply moving this beautiful, beautiful book is.

brown girl

I have been sharing one of my favourite passages with everyone I’ve come across, particularly my fellow library staff:

 

stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture book.

 

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

 

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.

Stevie.

 

I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

 

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

 

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

 

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this

maybe

I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books.

 

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.