Hello, friends! Our book today is A Song For Gwendolyn Brooks, written by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by Xia Gordon, an appropriately poetic look at the life and work of the famed Pulitzer Prize winner.
Gwendolyn is a shy young girl, growing up in Chicago in the 1920’s. Other children her age play and yell and live out loud, but Gwendolyn is content to read, to observe, and most of all, to write. She fills journals with poems, challenging herself to compose one each day, reworking the ones she likes and burying the ones she doesn’t in her mother’s garden. Her poems are so advanced for her age (and, it is implied, skin color) that her teacher accuses her of plagiarism. Her theretofore-quietly supportive parents protest this, her mother having Gwendolyn compose a poem on the spot to prove her talent. With the encouragement of her parents, then later friends and husband, Gwendolyn continues to compose, write, study, and create, her work winning awards and accolades wherever it is published. In 1950, she wins the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the first black person to do so – the shy young bud having grown into a furious flower.
Beautiful. Exploring Brooks’s life and work through poems – mostly free-verse couplets – Duncan invites the audience to share Gwendolyn’s voice in the telling of her story. Several of Brooks’s own poems are included in the text as well, and readers get a real sense of how much work and effort went into perfecting her craft (an element that greatly appealed to me; picture books about artists don’t often explore the WORK that goes into being great, only the talent). The art is wonderfully done, using a minimalist eye with rich, folksy tones that evokes both the art of the time and Brooks’s work and personality. The length might be better for slightly older bookworms, though JJ was engaged throughout due to the beautiful art and passionate verse. A beautiful tribute to a brilliant artist, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)