cover image A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by Xia Gordon. Sterling, $16.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4549-3088-4

In sturdy free verse, Duncan (Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop) celebrates the life of Gwendolyn Brooks, an African-American poet whose gifts emerged while she was very young. Brooks’s parents allow her to skip chores to work on her writing, but, early on, a schoolteacher accuses the child of plagiarism. The young poet exonerates herself by writing a verse on the spot titled “Forgive and Forget,” whose lines speak of unjust treatment: “If their taunts cut and hurt you,/ They are sure to regret.” Throughout her life, Brooks stays loyal to her South Side Chicago roots—“63rd Street is a brown face muse./ Gwen types her poems in a crowded corner”—and, in 1950, becomes the first poet of color to win the Pulitzer Prize. Debut illustrator Gordon offers softly outlined images in warm, earth-toned pinks and browns, evoking sunset on the brick buildings of Chicago and suggesting emotions with shadowy swells of color. Duncan underlines the growth not only of Brooks’s talent, but of her belief in herself and her craft, and her willingness to keep working: “Gwen’s confidence is a bud in spring./ Revised... revisions make poetry RING!” An author’s note and other references are included. Ages 5–up. Author’s agent: Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary. (Jan.)