A joyfully illustrated celebration of Brooks’ good and important work.

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ life is chronicled for young readers.

Growing up with a love for poetry that’s fed by her father’s recitations and her mother’s affirmations (“You are going to be the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar”), young Gwendolyn begins writing as early as 7. Poetry is everything to Gwendolyn, feeding her emotionally during the Great Depression and beyond. She writes by candlelight when the electricity is out and submits poems to publishers all over the country. Eventually they are published, but they don’t earn much—and then one day a phone call delivers joyous news: She is the first black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize! Slade’s uneven rhythms emulate Brooks’ but at times detract from a sense of textual cohesion; a superfluous explanation of the usage of “Black” in the author’s note feels awkward, as if seeking validation. On the other hand, Cabrera’s acrylic paint illustrations perfectly exemplify the title. Attention to detail, like the pink sponge roller in little Gwendolyn’s hair for a delightfully bumped bang and the dreamy bright pinks and blues of early spreads, with clocks and printed pages lining Gwendolyn’s imagination, adds a tangible depth to this story of her triumphs and challenges. Additional backmatter, including Brooks’ poem “Clouds,” a timeline, sources, and select bibliography, provides context and grounding for the airy book.

A joyfully illustrated celebration of Brooks’ good and important work. (Picture book/biography. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3411-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020


Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020



A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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