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Jacqueline Woodson, why are you so poet?

woodsonWhen the Cambridge Public Library announced that Brown Girl Dreaming would be this year’s Cambridge Reads book I was beyond thrilled. Now Jacqueline Woodson and I would be best friends! I’d say, Jacqueline, you are my hero, thank you for your perspective, your advocacy and for creating windows and mirrors for my students! Then she would say, Liz, I love your outfit and I would be like, I love your shoes! And together we would join forces to bring children representative literature and diversity to publishing practices and live happily ever after librarian and author best friends. The end.

While this particular fantasy did not come to fruition, she did in other ways fulfill my dreams for myself and my students who I brought with me. I don’t know if you have seen Jacqueline Woodson in person or heard her speak, but do yourself a favor and try to do just that. She is not only a dynamic author and speaker but also quite relatable, adding another layer to her already great capacity as a social commentator and leader in the field.

woodson_brown girl dreaming_170x258The audience was immediately endeared by her “Just Like Us” struggle to find the right outfit for that night (OMG you guys — I never know what to wear!). And just as you might think, she brought a deeper meaning to that seeming mundanity — recounting to the audience the advice passed down through the women in her family, now including Jacqueline’s thirteen-year-old daughter, about always looking smart. It’s a reminder that when you enter a room, your arms enter, your legs, your butt, your body…so wrap them up presentably. Jacqueline told us that’s why she usually wraps herself up in black.

The evening continued like this, bringing meaning and enlightenment to the audience. Adults were clearly moved. But it was the children in the audience — they added the poignancy and importance to the night. I felt immense pride as I looked over to see my students leaning forward not to miss a word, how they dutifully looked through the copies of their books to find the passages she was reading from, how when they asked questions, there were forethought, curiosity, and eagerness in their words.

The question-and-answer line went on for miles — all children! and all great questions (people were really interested in Jacqueline’s little brother, Roman). Close to the end, one girl in the audience asked  earnestly, “Why are you so poet?”I am not sure, little girl, but thank god she is.

Liz Phipps Soeiro About Liz Phipps Soeiro

Liz Phipps Soeiro is an elementary school librarian in the Cambridge, MA, Public Schools. She is an advocate for inclusive libraries and active in her community to create spaces that are welcoming to all students. She tweets @Cport_Special @ReflectLibrary and blogs at reflectivelibrary.blogspot.com

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