Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Song For Gwendolyn Brooks

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Folks!

If you live in the northeast, I hope you’re all prepared for the white stuff that’s coming!

Today I have such an amazing book to share with you that we must just jump right in!  With Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, and Women’s History Month all on the near horizon, this really is a Perfect Picture Book!

g brooks

Title: A Song For Gwendolyn Brooks

Written By:Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrated By: Xia Gordon

Sterling Children’s Books, January 2019, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 5+ (I think maybe a little more on the + side – the basic story is accessible to age 5, but there’s a fair amount of vocabulary)

Themes/Topics: writers/authors/poets, working hard to reach your goals, girl power, creativity, believing in yourself

Opening: “SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks.
Sing it loud – a Chicago Blues.

Skip to the beat of elevated trains.
They grumble, rumble, and roll real fast.

The year is 1925.
Gwendolyn Brooks is eight years old.

Gray bursts of smoke hide the yellow sun.
Can flowers grow without sunlight?

Gwendolyn leans on the front yard gate.
Gwendolyn is unsure.

gwen 1

text copyright Alice Faye Duncan 2019, illustration copyright Xia Gordon 2019

Brief Synopsis: Gwendolyn Brooks grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the 1920s. She wrote her first poem at age 7, and was nurtured and encouraged by her parents  to cultivate her talent. She ultimately published twenty collections of poetry, two autobiographies, and a novel.  She gave voice to the urban black experience and became the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Links To Resources: this book is a resource in itself, using some of Gwendolyn Brooks’s own poems, including an information-filled author’s note, a timeline of Gwendolyn Brooks’s life and accomplishments, suggested further reading, and a useful bibliography; encourage your students or children to write their own free verse poems about moments and/or details of their own experience.

gwen 3

text copyright Alice Faye Duncan 2019, illustration copyright Xia Gordon 2019

Why I Like This Book: I just love the way this book is written – a mixture of Gwendolyn Brooks’s poetry and Alice Faye Duncan’s.  The text is so lyrical – wonderful to read aloud – and expresses so much in so relatively few words.  Anyone who has ever had doubts – writers in particular – will connect with this story.  My favorite part is:

But sometimes – Gwendolyn doubts her radiance,
When jarring, crashing, discordant words,
Splotch and splatter her notebook paper.

And when RIGHT words don’t crystallize,
Gwendolyn grabs her mother’s garden trowel.

She digs beneath the snowball bush,
And buries her poems in a backyard grave.

Doesn’t that sum up the creative experience well?! The art is mostly warm hues of brown and pink that perfectly suit the mood of the writing.  This lovely book gives us a glimpse into the life and creativity of an incredibly talented writer – a beautiful and interesting read!

gwen 2

text copyright Alice Faye Duncan 2019, illustration copyright Xia Gordon 2019

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone – stay warm and safe!!! 🙂

27 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Song For Gwendolyn Brooks

  1. Barbara Gruener says:

    Looks like another must-have for my shelves, and perfectly timed, too. Thank you, Susanna, for hosting PPBF and for being such a great scout of strong titles that engage and inspire.

  2. ptnozell says:

    A perfect choice as we head towards MLK’s birthday, Black History Month & Women’s History Month. I have a copy winging its way through interlibrary loan. After reading your review, I hope it arrives soon!

  3. Genevieve Petrillo says:

    Mom wants to read this AND read some of Gwendolyn’s poems, too. I get this girl. Sometimes, I doubt my radiance, too. Mom thinks I shouldn’t. She never doubts her radiance. I think she SHOULD! #funnydoggie

    Love and licks,

  4. Sue Heavenrich says:

    I love Gwendolyn Brooks! So definitely going to hunt this book down. And burying a poem in the garden – what will grow from that! Hunkering down for a weekend of snow – will a dozen MG and YA novels be enough?

  5. viviankirkfield says:

    LOVE this book, Susanna! It’s a nonfiction pb bio! About the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer prize! And the words are soooo lyrical…yes, the story sings. I’m a fan, for sure!

  6. Patricia Tilton says:

    Such a beautiful story for kids about the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. I love the drama of how she buried her poems that didn’t work. This story will inspire children who like to write! Perfect for MLK day.

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