Review of The World Belonged to Us

The World Belonged to Us The World Belonged to Us
by Jacqueline Woodson; illus. by Leo Espinosa
Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
5/22    978-0-399-54549-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-399-54550-4    $10.99
Spanish ed.  978-0-593-53019-1    $18.99

This lyrical paean to unstructured play does not wax nostalgic or hark back to a simpler time. Rather, Woodson sets out to capture (and brilliantly succeeds in it) a feeling and a moment. She starts off, “In Brooklyn / in the summer / not so long ago,” and tells readers that “the minute / school ended, us kids were as free as air. / Free as sun. Free as summer.” While their grownups are busy inside the apartment buildings above, the neighborhood kids spend the long, hot days playing on the city streets. Open hydrants are converted into super squirters, games are invented and mastered, conflicts are collectively resolved, and scraped knees tended. It’s a time of endless possibility. “Our block was the whole wide world / and the world belonged to us,” at least until their mothers call them home for dinner. Espinosa’s kinetic pen-and-ink and watercolor art captures a cadre of kids in perpetual motion—biking, jumping rope, building forts, shooting bottle caps, playing stickball—and conveys unbridled joy and mutual respect and admiration. This book reminds readers that the benefits of free play, independence, and being excited about what each day may hold can extend beyond a Brooklyn block one summer to a lifetime of creative possibility. Simultaneously published in Spanish as El mundo era nuestro, translated by Yanitzia Canetti.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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