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Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award and four-time Newbery Honor Winner, MacArthur Fellow, and bestselling author of Red at the Bone

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  • About Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson is the critically-acclaimed author of more than two dozen award-winning books, including New York Times bestsellers Red at the Bone and Brown Girl Dreaming. Among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

    Woodson was named the 2015 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation, the 2018 Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress, and was selected for 2020 MacArthur Genius fellowship. She was also the 2020 recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition given to an author and illustrator of children’s books.

    In her New York Times-bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Brown Girl Dreaming won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and also received the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. Her first adult novel in twenty years, New York Times bestselling novel Another Brooklyn (Harper/Amistad), was a 2016 National Book Award Finalist.

    Her New York Times bestseller and Notable Book of the Year Red at the Bone was an NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) finalist for outstanding literary work in fiction. In this taut and powerful novel, Woodson uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of two families pulled together by an unexpected teenage pregnancy.

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  • Speaking Topics

    Brown Girl Dreaming

    Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. In this talk, she guides audiences through the vivid poems from her book, sharing what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow, her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement, and the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child.

    Making Sense of Our Collective Grief

    With children back in physical classrooms and employees returning to work in-person, we are tempted to proclaim that “everything is back to normal.” But there is an elephant in the room as we regather: Our collective state of grief. For some, grief was the trauma of losing a loved one to the COVID-19 virus. For others, grief meant losing out on moments and experiences. As a writer, activist, and mother, Jacqueline Woodson talks about how she has written, worked, and parented her way through this moment in history. She addresses the isolation and "languish" felt by so many and leaves audiences with a sense of hope and resilience to re-enter and re-emerge.

    Behind the Books

    Jacqueline Woodson discusses her lifelong journey as a writer with humor and poise, revealing her own writing process and where she finds inspiration. As she reads passages from her diverse body of work, this rousing, interactive talk motivates Woodson's audiences—from students to educators to book lovers—to read, write, revise, and read some more.

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  • Praise for Jacqueline Woodson

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    We are over the moon. She was fabulous! We have had the most incredible feedback.

    Columbus Metropolitan Library
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    It was wildly successful and impactful. We’ve had multiple people tell us how completely awestruck they were of Jacqueline’s energy, graciousness, and the importance of her message. We could not be more pleased and grateful.

    Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN)
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    Jacqueline was dynamic, and personable, and gracious and animated. Her gift of telling stories shone through. The event fulfilled our dreams and expectations for how she could inspire our community.

    Monroe County Public Library
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    What a beautiful day Jacqueline shared with us. Audience members of all ages were the beneficiaries of her wisdom and compassion. Our hearts are full in the South right now.

    Presbyterian College
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    Jacqueline Woodson was more than a speaker; she connected with every student in her audience. As she read her work and answered their burning questions, she held dozens of middle school students captive from start to finish. They’ll remember her visit for a lifetime.

    Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth

    Praise for The Year We Learned to Fly

    Two Black siblings use their imaginations to escape their immediate surroundings throughout the seasons in this picture book by previous collaborators Woodson and López (The Day You Begin)… Learning to soar “from the people who came before,” the children are told both that their feelings have been experienced by others, and that “nobody can ever cuff/ your brilliant and beautiful mind,” a lesson they pass on in turn.

    Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

    A sister and brother live with their younger sister and grandmother. In the spring, the weather is stormy, and the children grow bored. Summer finds them bickering over chores. In the autumn, the rooms of the apartment feel “big and lonely.” Then, in winter, they move, leaving their familiar street and friends behind. From this basic premise comes a narrative rich with literary and visual symbolism, simultaneously simple and profound…With this book, Woodson and Lopez create a path that children may follow as they gain confidence and imagine a way forward no matter what challenges arise.

    Booklist, starred review

    Praise for Before the Ever After

    This is a heartbreaking tale brimming with sympathy, and it draws much of its impact from the characterization of Zachariah’s father; while the portrait is obviously burnished by ZJ’s hero worship, it’s also clear that Zachariah Senior is a man of deep kindness and generosity who loves his son greatly, and whose decline leaves a huge hole in his fiercely close African-American family. ZJ’s move toward music and his increasing reliance on his friends are age-appropriate shifts that have particular poignance given the situation. While the football and CTE elements give this resonance for young athletes, many readers will be sadly familiar with the painful waning of a family member, and they’ll be heartened by ZJ’s love and resilience.

    The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

    Using spare and lyrical language for ZJ’s present-tense narration, which moves back and forth through time, Woodson skillfully portrays the confusion, fear, and sadness when a family member suffers from brain injury and the personality changes it brings. . . . The well-rounded secondary characters complete a mosaic of a loving African American family and their community of friends. . . . A poignant and achingly beautiful narrative shedding light on the price of a violent sport.

    Kirkus (Starred review)

    Woodson’s latest novel in verse conveys that not all success stories have a fairy-tale ending. Readers will feel an immediate connection to ZJ and his group of authentic, complex friends and family. The idea of showing the dark side of fame through the experiences of a young family member is a unique perspective that will resonate with readers of all ages. ZJ’s story will stay with the audience long after the last page is read. A first choice for all collections. A unique take on sports and fame told from an unexpected perspective, and another incredible read ­delivered by Woodson.

    School Library Journal (Starred review)

    A beautiful and heart-wrenching story. . . . Eloquent prose poetry creates a moving narrative that reveals the grief of a child trying to understand why his father has changed and why nothing can be done. An ardent account of the multitudes of losses experienced by those who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its effects on their families, ZJ’s doleful tale unveils the intense nostalgia and hope one can feel despite realizing that sometimes what is lost can never be regained.

    Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

    Woodson explores the impact of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) on football players and their families from the perspective of ZJ, son of tight end Zachariah ‘44’ Johnson. . . . In lyrical verse, Woodson conveys the confusion and loss that many families feel as they try to figure out what is wrong with their loved one. Each of the poems ably captures the voice of the story’s preteen boy protagonist; readers can feel the sense of love and loss that ZJ is experiencing as his dad slips away. Even though that loss is difficult, Woodson reminds readers that life’s challenges are more easily faced with the support of friends and famiy.

    The Horn Book (Starred review)

    Woodson's text may be spare, but it has the emotional wallop of an offensive tackle.

    Shelf Awareness

    A stirring, character-driven novel in verse, Before the Ever After doesn’t sugarcoat harsh realities but addresses them with considered care and optimism…. ZJ’s quiet resilience and the network of nurturing figures who surround him suggest a path lit by glimmers of hope.

    Bookpage

    Praise for Red at the Bone

    [A] remarkable and moving portrait of a family in a changing Brooklyn. . . There’s not a single unnecessary word.

    Refinery29

    Woodson famously nails the adolescent voice. But so, too, she burnishes all her characters’ perspectives. . . In Woodson, at the height of her powers, readers hear the blues: ‘beneath that joy, such a sadness.’

    Kirkus, starred review

    Praise for The Day You Begin

    This gentle, powerful ode to diversity and acceptance belongs with all children.

    Shelf Awareness, starred review

    [T]his empathetic dive into childhood recognizes economic, social, racial and cultural diversity, celebrates similarities and differences, and promotes the goal of inclusion for all.

    The San Francisco Chronicle

    A beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world. . . . Each child feels very alone until they begin to share their stories and discover that it is nearly always possible to find someone a little like you. López’s vibrant illustrations bring the characters’ hidden and unspoken thoughts to light with fantastic, swirling color. Shifting hues and textures across the page convey their deep loneliness and then slowly transition into bright hopeful possibilities. Full-bleed illustrations on every page are thick with collaged patterns and textures that pair perfectly with melodic prose that begs to be read aloud. . . . There’s an essential acknowledgment that everyone will experience a time when no one is quite like them, when they can’t find their voice, or when they feel very alone. Woodson’s superlative text sees each character turn that moment of desolation into an opportunity to be brave and find hope in what they have in common. This masterful story deserves a place in every library.

    School Library Journal, starred review

    A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride. . . . This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference. A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

    Kirkus Reviews, starred review

    Woodson’s poetic lines give power to each child’s experience. . . . López paints the book’s array of children as students in the same classroom; patterns and colors on the children’s clothing and the growing things around them fill the spreads with life. Woodson’s gentle, lilting story and López’s artistry create a stirring portrait of the courage it takes to be oneself.

    Publishers Weekly, starred review

    Woodson’s lyrical text is gently reassuring as it moves between broad discussion and specific examples of difference and discomfort, which emphasize children moving across cultures but will speak to children from all backgrounds and experiences. Mixed-media illustrations . . . combine bold with soft colors and textures in a slightly shaded tropical palette; compositions employ creative and insightful perspectives to suit the characters’ feelings. . . . The artist frequently incorporates a ruler into the illustrations, which perhaps speaks to the children’s perceptions of how they measure up to others. This lovely and sensitive treatment of adjustment deserves a spot in any collection for youngsters.

    The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

    Woodson catches the uncertainty, even fear, that comes with new situations. But her lyrical language also captures the moment when confidence sparks and friendships are born. . . . The bold, bright artwork features a diverse cast of kids. . . The important message plays out in a striking design that mixes the everyday with flights of fancy. Woodson, a recent National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, is one of kidlit’s brightest stars, and this should find lots of eager hands.

    Booklist 

    What will it take for a child who feels different to share her stories? . . . Like Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, this story places great value on literacy, reading, and imagination. The matte-finished pages feature illustrations in vivid, brilliant colors, with repeated appearances of flying birds and lush, twining vines and flowers.

    Horn Book

    Praise for Harbor Me

    Jacqueline Woodson's Harbor Me is a powerful love letter to effective teachers, unexpected friendship and the healing magic of hearing, recording and sharing words.

    Shelf Awareness, starred review

    Woodson delivers a powerful tale of community and mutual growth. The bond they develop is palpable. . . . The characters ring true as they discuss issues both personal and global. This story, told with exquisite language and clarity of narrative, is both heartbreaking and hopeful. An extraordinary and timely piece of writing.

    Kirkus Reviews, starred review

    The magic is in the writing. Woodson tells stories torn from headlines but personalizes them with poetry and memories, blunting their trauma with understanding and love. Haley’s history weaves in and out, drawing readers close. These children become each other’s safe harbors and Woodson brilliantly shows readers how to find the connections we all need.

    Booklist, starred review

    Woodson’s spare, lyrical, and evocative prose carries the story seamlessly, weaving in themes of justice and family, friendship and courage. This is a timely and beautifully written story that should be on library shelves everywhere.

    School Library Journal, starred review

    Praise for Another Brooklyn

    "... it is the personal encounters that form the gorgeous center of this intense, moving novel... [Another Brooklyn] unfolds as memory does, in burning flashes, thick with detail... Woodson brings the reader so close to her young characters that you can smell the bubble gum on their breath and feel their lips as they brush against your ear."

    The New York Times

    Another Brooklyn finds its poetry in what we project onto one another, in what we say to cover up the things we cannot say. It’s an elegant fever dream of a book, one that will haunt you after you finish it.

    Vox

    In Jacqueline Woodson’s soaring choral poem of a novel…four young friends…navigate the perils of adolescence, mean streets, and haunted memory in 1970s Brooklyn, all while dreaming of escape.

    Vanity Fair

    An engrossing novel about friendship, race, the magic of place and the relentlessness of change.

    People

    Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn is another kind of book, another kind of beautiful, lyrical, hallucinatory, heartbreaking and powerful novel. Every gorgeous page leads to another revelation, another poignant event, or memory. This is an incredible and memorable book.

    Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light

    Praise for Brown Girl Dreaming

    A sequence of revealing slices of life, redolent in sight, sound, and emotion. . . . Vivid. . . . A story of the ongoing weaving of a family tapestry, the following of an individual thread through a gorgeous larger fabric, with the tacit implication that we’re all traversing such rich landscapes. It will make young readers consider where their own threads are taking them.

    The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

    A memoir-in-verse so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her. . . . The poetry here sings: specific, lyrical, and full of imagery. . . . An extraordinary—indeed brilliant—portrait of a writer as a young girl.

    The Horn Book (starred review)

    Mesmerizing journey. . . . Thoughtfully expressed in powerfully effective verse. . . . With exquisite metaphorical verse Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience . . . that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss.

    School Library Journal (starred review)

    Gorgeous.

    Vanity Fair

    Moving and resonant . . . captivating.

    Wall Street Journal

    This is a book full of poems that cry out to be learned by heart.

    New York Times Book Review

    [Woodson’s] memoir in verse is a marvel, as it turns deeply felt remembrances of Woodson’s preadolescent life into art. . . . Her mother cautions her not to write about her family but, happily, many years later, she has and the result is both elegant and eloquent, a haunting book about memory that is itself altogether memorable.

    Booklist (starred review)
  • Books by Jacqueline Woodson

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