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Jacqueline Woodson: Love Is Tough, But Words Are Beautiful

Jacqueline Woodson was born on February 12, 1963, in Columbus, Ohio. She had her growing up days in both South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. One reason that she writes is because she believes that "language can change the world."

When she was young, she rarely saw books that had pictures of people who looked like her or her family or her friends. Her books have helped to fill in that gap, making it easier for libraries to succeed in their mission of letting every child find herself in a book.


As a young person, her favorite subjects were English, gym, and Spanish. Jacqueline got into trouble sometimes, missing homework assignments and talking to much. But she loved to write then, and she still does because it makes her happy even though it can be difficult to do some days.

Besides writing, Jacqueline has also worked as a drama therapist in New York City, helping runaway and homeless kids learn to handle their problems. These days, besides writing full time at her home in NYC, she also teaches writing to adults at City College and to kids from underserved communities at the National Book Foundation's Summer Writing Camp.

Here are some of Jacqueline's books which can be found in the children's section of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library:

Her Picture Books:

We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past

"Grandma wore her Blue dress
with all those flowers on it.
Brought biscuits and chicken
and me."

There's sweet potato pie, Uncle Luther's cinnamon bread, and pretty boy Cousin Trevor coming on by with a handful of nothing. Humph! But maybe a handful of nothing is better than Cousin Martha's dried-out apple pie!
Amazing words and beautiful, bright pictures from Diane Greenseid take readers right into the heart of the family gathering.

Sweet, Sweet Memory
A young girl remembers her grandpa with grief and joy. Surrounded by her family and all the familiar things she and her grandpa loved together, she is comforted by his words, "…everything and everyone goes on and on" when she can see that it is so in her daily life.

The Other Side
In this story that takes place decades ago, Clover has been told that she mustn't go over the fence to the neighbors' place. The neighbors are white, Clover is not, and her mother tells her it's not safe to cross over. When Annie comes and sits on the fence, watching Clover and her friends play, they ignore her. Until one day, Clover decides she will be brave enough to sit on the fence and talk to Annie.

Show Way
Here is a family story that takes place over hundreds of years and just a few pages. Long ago, Big Mama shared her teaching quilts' stories with slaves who were looking for a path to freedom. As generations pass, and freedom is achieved, seven-year-old twins Caroline and Ann keep "Show Way" quilting squares pinned inside their dresses to give them courage as they march for integration. Ann grew up to write poems, and her daughter, Jacqueline, wrote this book and many others. A clever, intriguing, and meaningful story, Show Way won the prestigious Newbery Honor award.

For Older Students

Miracle's Boys
Lafayette's brother is fresh home from juvie hall. Lafayette calls his brother "Newcharlie" since he's come back. He's hard and cold and hanging out with the mean guys. Worse, he seems to truly despise his kid brother:

"I turned away from both of them and stared out the window. If you ever had a brother who didn't like you, then I don't have to explain it. Feels like being a stranger in your own house, like everything that used to mean something doesn't anymore. Even your own name. Newcharlied'd hated my guts since Mama died, and he wasn't shy about letting anybody listening know it. Most times when he and Aaron got to talking, I just stayed quiet. If I was real quiet, it was like I was invisible. And if I was invisible, Newcharlie couldn't hate me."

That afternoon, while Ty'ree is still at work, Newcharlie and his friend Aaron take off into the streets, leaving Lafayette alone. When night comes, they're still gone, and Lafayette wonders if he will ever see his brother again, even if he looks him in the eye.

Locomotion
Lonnie Collins Motion. His mother gave him that name. Full of joy and movement. That was Lonnie. But something terrible happened. Now Lonnie is whisper quiet at his foster mother's house. So quiet.
He can't face what happened to land him here. His new teacher starts the class writing poetry. All year long, Lonnie lets out little bursts of poems that tell his story then and now.

Last Summer with Maizon
Margaret and Maizon may not be family, but their bond feels a lot stronger than just friendship. They aren't exactly two peas in a pod--Maizon can be pretty flashy, while Margaret is more subdued-but they've done everything together since they can remember on their block in Brooklyn.  After this summer, though, everything might change. Not only has Margaret's father been in the hospital a lot lately, but for the first time she and Maizon will be split up. Maizon is afraid to go to a school with hardly any black students, and Margaret is afraid of feeling all alone, even though she's the one staying home.
(From the publisher's description)