Book Review: A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks
by Alice Faye Duncan, Illustrated by Xia Gordon
Publication Date: Jan 01, 2019
List Price: $16.95
Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
Target Age Group: Picture Book
Imprint: Sterling Children’s Books
Publisher: Sterling Publishing
Parent Company: Barnes & Noble
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Book Reviewed by Neoma Nwasike
Gwendolyn Brooks was a very influential African American poet who became the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize award (Poetry). In the children’s book A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks author Alice Faye Duncan depicts all of Brooks loses and triumphs that she endured throughout her life. It is at times a very sad depiction, but overall very inspiring. Everything that Brooks experienced as a child, made her into a successful writer as an adult. Through all of her experiences, she became a stronger and smarter individual.
Brooks grew up in the South Side of Chicago, during a time when Blacks had it rough and were segregated to bad and unkept neighborhoods. Duncan makes sure to shine a light on some of the harsh-living conditions that not only Brooks endured, but other families in the neighborhood endured as well. From the beginning of the book, readers get a clear understanding of exactly who Brooks was and the creative and imaginative spirit she had, even as a child. Brooks was very much a loner, but found solace in her journals, where she would write endlessly. Duncan makes it a point to include various poems that Brooks has written throughout the book, even the poems from her childhood. On almost every page, children will be able to read some of Brooks most influential poems and get an insight into her brilliant mind.
Duncan’s writing in the book reads almost as a poem as well. The wording she chooses to use, is very descriptive and imaginative and she finds ways to rhyme certain words with one another. Duncan’s words smoothly transition from page to page and find a way to complement Brooks’s poems. Duncan writes the book in a very interesting and specific way, although the book is not quite long, she breaks the book up into little, individual chapters. Each chapter represents a certain time period, or important event, in Brooks’s life. Overall the chapters are time lines that will help children keep track of the many experiences of Brooks’s life.
If a children’s book is to really stand out, then it must contain very creative illustrations, and this book is a great example. Illustrator Xia Gordon helps Duncan’s words come to life. Every page you flip through a new and colorful painting is bound to grab your eye. The colors Gordon uses has a way of coalescing really nicely, to form images that hold so much meaning and emotion. In just a few pages, Gordon draws Brooks’s life and her growth.
Overall this book is very inspiring and important for children to read. Brooks life is a story that teaches children the importance of self-expression and creativity. All though she went through hard times and did not always fit in, Brooks had a light in her that shined brightly. Despite her shortcomings, she still found a way to power thorough. Kids will be awed by not only Duncan’s storytelling but also Brooks’s inspiring poetry.