Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs. To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson could be my new favorite mentor text. I loved the New York Times review by Veronica Chambers where she wrote:
"You can read “Brown Girl Dreaming” in one sitting, but it is as rich a spread as the potluck table at a family reunion. Sure, you can plow through the pages, grabbing everything you can in one go, like piling a plate high with fried chicken and ribs, potato salad and corn bread. And yes, it’s entirely possible to hold that plate with one hand while balancing a bowl of gumbo and a cup of sweet tea with the other. But since the food isn’t going anywhere, you’ll make out just as well, maybe even a little better, if you pace yourself."
I found myself reading Brown Girl Dreaming holding the plate in one hand and gobbling as I went, so I had to ge back and savor it after I made it to the final page. My family humored me and listened to several of the entries, especially since they were stuck in the car with me as we drove home from Rhode Island last night. I plan to continue to mark pages and savor pages...
Many parts of this book remind me of When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, except that instead of just having 32 pages of images, powerful memories, and sensory language, Jacqueline Woodson provides 330 pages of evocative writing. While a strong plot winds through the lyrical verses, many of the chapters can stand alone as individual stories to inspire both readers and writers to pay attention or create sensory details, foreshadowing, parallel structures, minimalism, characterization, figurative language. Many schools have upper elementary students write I Am From or I Believe poems and one of my favorite chapters is What I Believe at the end. Do not miss this!
In addition to providing incredible lessons for powerful close reading and writing mentorship, Brown Girl Dreaming also weaves American history and geography throughout the twentieth century. This book will definitely inspire questions about segregation, civil rights, and equality since the Woodsons' experiences included the north and the south over the course of the sixties and seventies. One seven line chapter, Ghosts, relays history in just these lines:
In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn't use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.
Themes of perseverance, resilience, and acceptance run throughout this book, as well as messages about growth mindsets and the power of believing in yourself. I could go on. What a beautiful, inspiring book!
#don't miss it!