Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Xia Gordon

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Fave Duncan,
illustrated by Xia Gordon
Sterling Children's Books, 2019, 48 pages 

In this beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers, author Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life of poet Gwendolyn Brooks from 1925 to to 1950. In 1925, at only 8 years old, Gwendolyn was already writing down the rhymes she first created in her head. Many of her rhymes came from standing alone, watching the other kids playing, and the people in her neighborhood going able their business. Her parents realized early on that Gwen was an unusually talented poets and allowed her to skip chores, giving her time to sit on the backyard porch and listen to the sounds of her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

Sometimes, when her poems disappointed her or she doubted her ability as a poet, Gwen would bury what she had written under a backyard bush. Then, one day, she was accused of plagiarism by her teacher. After reading the note the teacher sent home, Mrs. Brooks took on the teacher and together mother and daughter proved her wrong - Gwendolyn Brooks wrote an original poem on the spot:

Forgive and Forget by Gwendolyn Brooks 1928 (age 11)

If others neglect you,
Forget, do not sigh,
For, after all, they'll select you
In times by and by.
If their taunts cut and hurt you,
They are sure to regret.
And if in time, they desert you ,
Forgive and forget.

Point made, don't you think?

Even during the Depression years, teenaged Gwen was allowed to sit and think instead of going out to find work like the kids around her had to do. But Gwen worked hard on her poetry, learning to really love words. Her parents believed she was gifted and so did The Chicago Defender, Chicago's African American newspaper, who published her poems. Soon, Gwendolyn's poems are being published in books and then in 1950, she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry. What an honor and celebration of the child Mr. and Mrs. Brooks had nurtured because they had so much faith in her.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a beautiful introduction to the life of this great poet that includes not only the author's lyrical text (set off by Roman numerals), but also includes some of the poems Gwen wrote in her youth. This book will leave no doubt that author Alice Faye Duncan is a fan of Gwen's poetry as evidenced in her loving portrayal of the poet. Duncan has really captured her parent's pride in their daughter, and luckily for us, they allowed her to explore and develop her talent.

The text is complimented by Xia Gordon's bold illustrations done in bright pinks, soft purples as well as gold and brown earth tones add to the celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks' life and poetry.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was provided to my by the publisher, Sterling Children's Books

1 comment:

  1. I'm waiting for this wonderful book from the library, Alex, excited to read it! Thanks!


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