A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The book educates readers about what it was like growing up in the South during Jim Crow.
Family and cross-generational support are important, as are self-worth, self-discovery, and family history.
Positive Role Models
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman becomes pregnant without mention of a husband or the child's father.
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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.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There are descriptions of adults having drinks at parties.
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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's a memoir in verse that addresses growing up in the segregated South, racism, Christianity, divorce, sickness, and the deaths of relatives. There's 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. The audiobook version, which is read by the author, was named a 2015 Notable Children's Recording by the American Library Association. The paperback edition has seven additional poems. Woodson served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature 2015-2017, and as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature 2018-2019.
Is It Any Good?
This memoir in free verse 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.