Poets Browne (Black Girl Magic, illustrated by Jess X. Snow, 2018), Acevedo (The Poet X, 2018), and Gatwood (Life of the Party, 2019) team up to offer a collection that calls young readers to awareness and justice.
Browne’s introduction explains what it means to be woke—“aware of your surroundings”—and connects this awareness to historical movements for justice, stating, “this is where our freedom begins.” The poems are assigned subject headings located next to the page numbers, in nearly alphabetical order, for easy access when flipping through this slim volume for inspiration. Some poems cover quiet topics that nourish individuals and relationships, such as body positivity, forgiveness, individuality, and volunteerism. Other poems are louder, calling for lifted voices. In “Activism, Everywhere,” Browne writes, “It is resisting to be comfortable / When we all have yet to feel safe and free”; her protest poem, titled “Right To, After Claude McKay,” powerfully echoes McKay’s historic verses while reversing the premise: “If we must live, let it not be in silence.” A resistance poem by Acevedo urges readers to “Rock the Boat,” and Gatwood’s poem on privilege asks, “What’s in My Toolbox?” Identity issues are covered too, with poems on disability, gender, immigration, and intersectionality. Each of the 24 poems is an irresistible invitation to take up space in community and in society, and each is eminently recitable, taking its own place in the spoken-word tradition. Taylor’s bold and colorful illustrations complement the poems without distracting from their power; Jason Reynolds contributes a foreword.
Read it; gift it; use it to challenge, protect, and grow. (Picture book/poetry. 8-18)