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Brown Girl Dreaming

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Brown Girl Dreaming Book Poster Image
Captivating poems depict coming-of-age in tumultuous 1960s.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The book educates readers about what it was like growing up in the South during Jim Crow.

Positive Messages

Family and cross-generational support are important, as are self-worth, self-discovery, and family history.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The book's characters are multidimensional and positive in their portrayals, but not because they're perfect. It is their humanity, and fallibility, that positively influences the main character's life.


There is discussion of violent reactions to 1960s-era civil rights marchers and their fears about traveling in the South at night because of violence against African-Americans.


A woman becomes pregnant without mention of a husband or the child's father.


There are instances of mild name-calling among children, as well as a discussion about swear words; this discussion mainly revolves around the children's inability to swear and make it sound "right," and the actual words aren't used.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are descriptions of adults having drinks at parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the 2015 Coretta Scott King Book Award and was named a 2015 Newbery Honor Book. It addresses growing up in the segregated South, racism, Christianity, divorce, sickness, and the deaths of relatives. There is discussion of violent reactions to 1960s-era civil rights marchers and their fears about traveling in the South at night because of violence against African-Americans. A woman becomes pregnant without mention of a husband or the child's father, and there are descriptions of adults having drinks at parties. Still, for the most part the people depicted in the book are multidimensional and positively portrayed. Read by the author in the audiobook version, which the American Library Association named a 2015 Notable Children's Recording.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old May 24, 2015

Upsetting and Moving but Worth Reading

Brown Girl Dreaming is a book that I thought was excellent for 11-13 year-olds. It is written in free verse, but it is still awesome. It is great if you want to... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byBrigidArmbrust April 7, 2018

What's the story?

BROWN GIRL DREAMING is a memoir in verse that depicts Jaqueline Woodson growing up in different places during a unique time in American history. She's born in Ohio, to which her father's family traces a proud lineage, but raised in the South, where she encounters the sweetness of life with grandparents as well as the sting of Jim Crow. She moves back to the North and navigates a noisier place with hard edges and warm friends. How can she reconcile her different worlds? Will she be able to find her voice, not only so she can stand out but so she can make sense of the topsy-turvy world around her?

Is it any good?

This book of poems retraces the mundane, beautiful, and dramatic periods of her childhood, and it's absolutely beautiful and captivating. Brown Girl Dreaming makes readers feel like family. Not everyone grew up an African-American female in the South during Jim Crow; not everyone grew up as a Jehovah's Witness; and many people have never lived in New York City. But, in Woodson's rhythmic verse, readers will find reflections of themselves. The intimacy of family, the warmth of friends, the joys of imagination and discovery, and the worries of growing up, being lost, and being left behind all are recognizable.

Woodson captures childhood in all its color and shades of gray. Parents and kids alike will fall in love with her language -- and may even forget they're reading poetry rather than a traditional memoir.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of a family's history when kids are growing up. How does your family's influence on you differ from those of your peers?

  • Families also can talk about the civil rights marches of the 1960s and similar events happening in the U.S. today, including the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. What has changed since the 1960s? What has not?

  • Finally, families can talk about the importance of finding what each of us, as individuals, does well. Jacqueline found her voice as a writer despite her reading difficulties. What do you do well? How do you best demonstrate your thoughts and feelings?

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