As a child, Gwendolyn Brooks had a dream. A dream to write poetry and to have her words heard by the world. Exquisite is the true story of how a black girl from a Chicago neighbourhood grew up to be the first black person to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Gwendolyn grew up in a relatively poor family where every dollar was counted carefully. Despite not being financially rich there were other riches to be found in the Brooks’ home and for Gwendolyn that was in the bookcase full of poems. She loved memorising the poems that her father read aloud and she was soon writing her own poems taking inspiration from the world around her. As she grew up she continued to write, writing by candlelight when she couldn’t afford to pay for electricity. Regularly sending poems to publishers, she waited to hear news that her works would be published. Even when this happened, it still didn’t provide a sufficient income. All of this didn’t matter though when she received the most wondrous of phone calls - she had won the Pulitzer Prize.
This picture book biography is a celebration of the life and achievements of a young black girl from the gritty streets of Chicago. Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks tells a lyrical and uplifting story about how a young girl’s dream was realised. The book is exceptionally illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera and the most fitting word to describe her artwork is the title of the book itself, it is exquisite. Lots of extras are included at the back of the book - the poem ‘Clouds’, a lovely author’s note, a detailed timeline of Brooks’ life, quote sources and an additional reading list.
Gwendolyn was a wonderful person and is a brilliant role model to readers. She did things the hard way, nothing was handed to her on a silver spoon. She lived through the Great Depression, endured racial segregation and social injustice, had her works repeatedly rejected and often found herself struggling to fit in. No matter what though, she found comfort in her writing and that was when she felt unstoppable. The message to young readers - if you have a passion, you should follow it and put every single ounce of energy you have into it because Gwendolyn is proof that dreams can come true and more.
It is worth remembering that money isn’t everything and the life and achievements of Gwendolyn Brooks are a wonderful example of how a rich and rewarding life can be lived without financial wealth.
Recommended for 7+.