Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

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Annotation: Introduces the life and work of Gwendolyn Brooks, from her early love of poetry and her first published poems as a girl in Chicago through her financial struggles as an adult during the Depression to winning the Pulitzer Prize for her second book.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #210092
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2020
Illustrator: Cabrera, Cozbi A.,
Pages: 48
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-419-73411-3 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7720-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-419-73411-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7720-9
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2018017974
Dimensions: 27 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) grew up on the South Side of Chicago "with little money to spare," but her childhood home was rich in volumes of poetry, which her father read aloud and which she memorized. She began writing poems at the age of seven; at eleven, dreaming of an "ecstatically exquisite" future, she sent some of her best writing out and was published in a local newspaper and then a national magazine. Years of setbacks followed -- including the Great Depression, many rejections from publications, and struggles to pay the bills -- but only increased her devotion to her work. She wrote about the people she knew and observed in her Bronzeville neighborhood -- "the nonstop busyness, the hard-luck grittiness." She was a wife and mother before she got her first book of poems published, and poetry still didn't pay the bills. But Brooks dancing with her son in an electricity-less apartment upon being informed she had won the Pulitzer Prize is a quietly joyful conclusion to her search for her future. Cabrera's strong, carefully composed acrylic illustrations beautifully evoke both the joy and the hardship in Brooks's everyday life and in the life of the community that inspired her. Slade's attention to detail, vigorous prose, and judicious use of the poet's own words make this biography, and its subject, stand out. Appended with an author's note, a timeline, a selected bibliography, and source notes. Autumn Allen
Kirkus Reviews
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)
Publishers Weekly
In stirring free verse and resplendent acrylic paintings, these collaborators pay affecting tribute to Brooks, who, in 1950, became the first black person to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Laced with Brooks-s spoken and written words, the lyrical narrative by Slade echoes the personal tenor of the subject-s poetry, inspired by -the nonstop busyness, the hard-luck grittiness- of her neighborhood in Chicago-s South Side. One of Brooks-s poems, -Clouds,- printed at the book-s end, provides a leitmotif executed in tandem by Slade and Cabrera; in one spread that includes a quote from the poet, a young Brooks gazes at a cotton candy-hued sunset sky, dreaming about the future. Despite publishers- rejection letters and financial struggles during the Depression, she continued to believe in that hopeful future as -everywhere she looked, Gwendolyn saw more stories that needed to be told. So she kept writing.- This fine biography should ignite readers- interest in exploring Brooks-s exquisite writing. Ages 6-9. (Apr.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
K-Gr 3 Gwendolyn Brooks (19172000) was inspired to write poetry from an early age. When she wasn't dreaming on her back porch, she was filling notebooks with observations about nature and everyday life in her Chicago neighborhood. Themes of racial injustice, hunger, and poverty stood alongside depictions of joy and wonder in her work. Brooks dedicated her life to writing; she won contests, got published, and eventually became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. The biography's awestruck, reverent tone is matched by the gorgeous acrylic paintings. Bright palettes of pink, orange, blue, and green evoke the influence of nature in Brooks's work. There is a lovely contrast between the illustrations of lush outdoor sunsets and the beautifully rendered moments that depict her home life. The only thing missing from the text is more excerpts from Brooks's poetry. Shining a spotlight on the poet's own words would have enriched the context of her life story and shown how life can influence art and vice versa. Extensive back matter includes a poem by 15-year-old Brooks titled "Clouds," an author's note, a time line, source notes, and a bibliography. VERDICT A visually remarkable and inspiring introduction to the life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Recommended for purchase in most collections. Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 1,616
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 508936 / grade: Lower Grades
Lexile: 870L
Guided Reading Level: V

A picture-book biography of celebrated poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is known for her poems about "real life." She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty-showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression-all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.

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