Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

The World Belonged to Us 
written by Jacqueline Woodson,
illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2022, 32 pages
Schools out for summer and these kids are happy, excited, and anticipating a great time all summer long, playing games with friends and running free: "Free as air. Free as sun. Free as summer." Just look at those joyous faces. Oh, I remember that feeling, do you? Woodson has captured those past summers in Brooklyn perfectly in this charming picture book fictional memoir, and I know it's spot on because, well, I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, too. 

With school out, it's life on the streets for two whole months. On hot days, the fire hydrants are opened and everyone races to get a cooling shower, clothes and all. The streets are chalked with game boards, jump ropes are pulled out and double dutch is the name of the game. 

Hanging with friends on a stoop, telling stories, learning about life from the older kids (I became a pretty good poker player hanging out on Ismael's stoop), other times a ball and stick are pulled out and a game of stickball happens in the street (only stopping when someone yells "car"). Ice cream trucks roll down the street and moms toss money wrapped in a scarf to the lucky kids who always share with the kids who have no money (for us, it was Mister Softee, Good Humor, and Bungalow Bar). And at the end of the day, as everyone knows, it's time to go home when the streetlights came on. 

If Jacqueline Woodson got summer all right in her text, Leo Espinosa got it right in the illustrations. Kids in the 1970s were probably the last of the free range children and in his illustrations it feels almost as if they knew and had to make it all extra special. The kids seem to be extra loud, just look at those wide open mouths and you can practically hear the kids calling to each other, and extra energetic, the kids are depicted in almost constant motion. And don't you just love those clothes. The kids are all diverse, just like Brooklyn was and is. And it really did feel like the world belonged to us.

I had a friend once who grew up in the suburbs and told me she felt sorry for me growing up in Brooklyn, because I must have been so bored. Bored? Really? Just look at these kids.  

This book really brought back memories of growing up in Brooklyn for me and the games we used to play during summer vacation. It was every bit as wonderful as this book says it was. 

I loved playing skelly as a kids and this is one of my favorite pictures in the book. Kids shooting their bottle caps (ours were filled with clay not tar), and a group of kids on the sideline watching and talking. And I'm happy to see that the thirteenth square is still surrounded by poison (land in poison and you lose a turn). 
In my Flatbush neighborhood, we called this game skelly,
not skully

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a fantastic celebration of childhood in the city in days past. I agree that the illustrations capture it as perfectly as the text.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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