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Multicultural Literature For Children and Young Adults

Author Study Jacqueline Woodson


In the Spotlight Jacqueline Woodson

Advice to young readers, "Write every single day, at least for thirty minutes-just sit down and write in your diary or write a letter to a friend, or write a poem or anything, but just try to pratice writing everyday; and reading books by writers you admire."

Jacqueline Woodson Teacher Resource File

“ I use to say I’d be a teacher or a lawyer or a hairdresser when I grew up but even as I said these things, I knew what made me happiest was writing.”


Author Snapshot


        Born February 12, 1962 in Ohio, grew up in Greenville South Carolina and in Brooklyn, New York.

        Lives in Brooklyn, New York with her daughter “Toshi” and dog “Maus”.

        Favorite Subject in School was English

        Uses experiences from the culturally diverse neighborhood for characters in her books.

        Favorite book (right now) Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Cutis

        Favorite Authors: Chris Lynch, Chris Raska, Chris Myers, Karen Hesses, An Na, and Mildred Taylor.

        Former drama therapist for runaways and homeless children in NYC.

        Decided to become a writer after reading 3 books: 

                  The Bluest Eyes     by Toni Morrison

                  Daddy was a Number Runner    by Louie Meriwether

                  Ruby     by Rosa Guys

These books helped her to make writing her career.  Before reading these books she thought that only books featuring mainstream, white characters, or works by William Shakespeare were valid literature.  But these 3 books encourage Woodson to write about herself and her life.


        Teaches at Goddard College M.F.A writing program

        Works on 2 or 3 books at once.

        Books published in the following languages: Japanese, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, and French.

        Writes about difficult issues that young people face and characters who feel out of place.


“I think, growing up, I felt like I was on the outside a lot; and I think, as a grown-up, I’ve…realized that it’s okay to be on the outside.”

                                                            Jacqueline Woodson


        Writes about characters from a variety of races, ethnicities, and social classes.


“There are all kinds of people in the world and I want to help introduce readers to the kinds of people they might not otherwise meet.”

                                                            Jacqueline Woodson

        Books features strong Female characters




Jacqueline Woodson’s Top Ten Books


“I can’t write about easy topics because they won’t change the world.  And I do want to change the world-one reader at a time.”

                                         Jacqueline Woodson


Picture Books


Woodson, Jacqueline. The Other Side. 2001. New York: Penguin Putman. ISBN  0399231161.


In the “Other Side”, Woodson writes about a segregated town in the South.  The black and white communities are separated by a fence.  Two girls Clover (African American) and Annie (white) are both told not to climb over the fence because it is not safe.  It is a story of hope, how children don’t see black or white, but a potential friendship.  The two girls work around the fence to become friends. “The Other Side” is a touching book that introduces young children to the historical period of Segregation.


“I wanted to write about how powerful kids can be.  Clover and Annie fight against segregation by becoming Friends.  They don’t believe in the ideas adults have about things so they do what they can to change the world.  We all have this power.”



Woodson, Jacqueline.  We had a Picnic this Sunday Past.  1998. New York: Hyperion. ISBN  0786802421.


“We had a Picnic this Sunday Past, is not a typical Woodson change the world book, but a lighthearted story about family’s annual picnic seen through the eyes of the narrator.  Teeka narrates the story about the annual family picnic held in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York and her grandmother goes the family picnic.  With a loving eye and humor Teeka introduces the readers to the members of her family as they arrive with their home cooked dishes.    Woodson light hearted story about picnics, food and family gathering and Greensied’s lively roly-poly characters will have children laughing at Teeka animated descriptions of family member, Reverend Luke who carries the Bible, “….can eat like the devil? …strange since he’s a holy man.”  This book will become a family favorite as they pack up their home cooked dishes for their annual family picnic


Middle Reader Titles


Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Putnam's Sons. 2003. ISBN0399231153.

Hip Hop Rules the World

Hip Hop Rules the World, Lamont said
grinning like somebody had told him
he's just won the lotto.

But all it was was Ms. Marcus saying
Of course rap is poetry!
One of the most creative forms.

So now Lamon't writing lyrics
and bopping his head
and every chance he gets

Hip Hop Rules the World

It's one of the most creative forms
Hey Dog! Guess who else is a poet now!

Jacqueline Woodson


This is Woodson first verse novel.  Woodson said, “ Lonnie’s voice was in my head,  “The poems started coming and the rest…. the rest is this book, I guess.”  This book will introduce young readers especially boys to poetry, exposing them to the connection between Rap lyrics and poetry.  Lonnie’s words share his life with its readers, the pain of losing his parents and being separated from his sister.  Woodson has once aging written an urban tale rich with the language of the street.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  Last Summer with Maizon. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0698119290


“The Last Summer with Maizon”. Woodson writes about the friendship between two black girls who live in the Bushwich section of Brooklyn, New York.  Margaret loves her family and her best friend Maizon.  During the summer they both turn eleven Margaret’s father dies of a heart attack and Maizon in accepted at an expensive boarding school. 


“Last Summer with Maizon” is the first book is a series of three about middle class African American families that live in the same neighborhood that Woodson grew up in.  In the first book of the trilogy Woodson writes about adolescent, death, racism, independence, and the nurturing of the gifted child.



Young Adults Titles


Woodson, Jacqueline. The Dear One.  2004. New York: Penguin. ISBN 039923913


“The Dear One’, is Woodson’s second novel about a strong group of African American women dealing with their individual problems which connect them to each other’s lives. The story of Feni’s and Rebecca’s relationship is woven around contemporary issues of: teenage pregnancy, alternative lifestyles, divorce, and adoption.  Many of the issues Woodson address in the novel are topics she faced each day as a drama therapist for homeless and runaway teenagers in NYC.


“ The Dear One’, was the second novel I ever wrote.  I wanted too write about teenage pregnancy.  At the time I was working with runaway and homeless young people-many of whom were pregnant.  I want to write a novel that spoke to them.”



Woodson, Jacqueline. The House you Pass on the Way. 2003. New York: Puffin. ISBN 0142501913.


‘The House you Pass on the Way”, deals with the contemporary issues of racism, interracial marriage and a high school girl’s crush on another girl.  The story follows Evangeline (nickname Staggerlee) and her adopted cousin Trout during the summer they were thirteen questioning their sexual ordination.


“I wanted to write about the south-something I hadn’t really done before.  I wanted to write about friendship and I wanted to write about what it means to love someone-how painful and confusing that can be.”



Woodson, Jacqueline.  I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This. 1995. New York: Laurel-Leaf Books.  ISBN 0040219604.


Maria and Lena are both motherless.  Marie is black and well off.  Lena is white and poor.  They both live in the small town of Chauncey, Ohio where blacks and whites don’t mix.  But the girls become friends any way.  Lena has a terrible secret that she has only told Maria. Maria has to decide if she should keep it a secret or tell someone about it?  In this book Woodson exposes the taboo topic of sexual abuse between a father and daughter.  Once again Woodson uses experiences from her work as a therapist to say to readers, “Don’t be afraid.  You are not alone.”  The only problem I had with the book is that Maria decided to keep Lena’s friends instead of telling someone about her friend’s problem.


Woodson, Jacqueline.  From the Notebook of Melanin Sun. 1997 New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0590458817


Thirteen year old Melanin Sun has a great life with hi single mom in a section of Brooklyn, New York called Flatbush.  He feels like she’s the person he can tell anything to.  Then on day, his mother brings a white woman named Kristin home.  Melanin dislikes Kristin the minute he meets her and because of her, his life with his mother will never be the same again. Woodson wrote this story about homosexuality and racism from the point of view of a boy. 


Woodson, Jacqueline. Miracle’s Boys. 2001.  New York: Putnam. ISBN 0698119169.


Woodson won the Corretta Scott King Award for “Miracle’s Boy’s in 2001.  The story takes place in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.  Twelve year old Lafayette tells the story of three bothers who are orphaned after the death of their mother.  He tells the story of what happens to him and his older brother, fifteen year old Charlie and twenty-one Ty’ree, after Charlie comes home form juvenile detention center where he has spent time for armed robbery. 


“I wanted to write a story that had no girls in it.   Also wanted to write about how hard it is t be poor sometime.  I also wanted to write about how hard it is to lose someone you love-in this case, both parents-and how that pain starts shaping itself into other things sometimes like anger and isolation.  Most of all I wanted to write about three brothers who are funny, handsome, searching, and caring of one another.


Woodson, Jacqueline. If You Come Softly. 1998. New York: Putman. ISBN 0399231129.


“If You Come Softly”’ is a story about first love, interracial dating, and family.  Ellie is white and Jewish, Jeremiah is black.  They meet at a private school and fall in love together they have to learn to deal with how society treats them because they are and interracial couple.


“As I was writing, I came across some line form Romeo and Juliet and realized this story was a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.”




If You Come Softly

Jacqueline Woodson Literary Comparison

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Putnam's Sons. 2003. ISBN0399231153.

Woodson's novel is a collection of poems portraying the pain and joy of a young African American boy struggling to grow up in an urban environment. The story is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Lonnie (a.k.a Locomotion). Through his poetry he express his anguish, fear, and dreams. In the poem, "My Name" Lonnie remembers how his mother gave him his nickname "Locomotion" while dancing with her to a song she loved the went "Come on, baby, do the Locomotion, Mama would make us dance with her. We'd do this dance called the Locomotion. "See why I had to make it your name? Lonnie Collins Motion Lo Co Motion." At the age of seven Lonnie's life changes forever he loses his parents in a house fire. A wealthy family adopts his younger sister Lili, while Locomotion is placed in a group home before moving into a foster home with Miss Edna. Woodson has the ability in her writing to give a voice to inter city children and young adults whose stories of abandonment, abuse, and isolation are rarely told in an authentic voice. Lonnie writes about fear and isolation in &"Group Home Before Miss Edna's" Monsters that come at the night don't breath fire .The come looking like regular boys going through your drawers.... saying You better not tell the Counselor else I'll beat you down" through Lonnie eyes Woodson writes about the lack of comfort and safety many child find when place in state run group facilities. Lonnie calls himself a "throwaway boy". Lili's new mama didn't want no boys. Just a sweet little girl. Nobody told me that I just know it. Not a lot of people want boys. Not foster boys that ain't babies." With the guidance of his teacher, Ms. Marcus, she shows him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper helping Lonnie begin to heal

"this whole book's a poem cause Ms. Marcus says write it down before it leaves your brain. Write fast, Lonnie, Ms. Marcus says. And I' m thinking Yeah, I better write fast before Miss Edna's voice comes on and blows my candle idea out." Lonnie's words seem to dance upon the page, leading us through times both good and bad that make up the steps of his life.

In this book Woodson gives an authentic urban voice to an African American boy through poetry. Woven into the 60 poems is urban street language that will make the book real to Woodson young adult audience. The poetry revolves around events that help Lonnie deal with sorrow and joys in his life. Woodson allows Lonnie voice to tell a story of loss, grief, and humor. Locomotion is an amazing novel that has been named a 2003 Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

Woodson, Jacqueline. If You Come Softly. 1998. New York: G. P. Putnam's. ISBN 0399231129.

If You Come Softly is a very moving novel that addresses delicate issues like interracial relationships, racism, abandonment, and love-at-first-sight. This book is about a Jewish girl names Elisha Eisen and an African American boy names Jeremiah Roselind who meet on the first day of school at Percy Academy and are immediately attracted to each other. Elisha is the youngest daughter of a successful Jewish Doctor and his wife. Ellie, as she prefers to be called, is the only child home in the Eisen family where she is still worried about two earlier periods when Mrs. Eisen abandoned the family. Jeremiah (Miah) is the only child of prominent African Americans: Norman Roselind, and Oscar nominated film maker and Nelia Roselind, a critically acclaimed novelist a coupled that was once labeled the most romantic is now separated.

Once they are able to spend time together it is obvious that they have a deep connection are able to share their feeling with each other. The two teenagers don't see what's on the outside but only the kindness and beauty on the inside of each other. But some people don't see it the way that Jeremiah and Ellie do which makes it difficult for them to have and open relationship. For a while they keep their growing romance hidden from their parents. Ellie is concerned about her families' prejudices. Ellie can tolerate the reaction of schoolmates and strangers but no when it comes from her sister Anne, the one person she has expected to understand since she had endured family disapproval because of her sexual orientation. Miah takes Ellie to his home in Brooklyn to meet his mother where the young couple finds a place of acceptance for their relationship. Ellie is finally ready to have her family meet Miah when tragedy hits. After leaving Ellie Miah cuts through the park on the Upper East Side of New York he is mistaken for a wanted criminal, shot and killed.

Woodson has created a voice for theses two high school characters that come from two different worlds in New York City. Through Miah she has created a voice of a young middle class African American boy who's parents are prominent citizens who have the same hopes and dream for his future that Ellie's parents do.

In Jacqueline Woodson's books she writes about characters from a variety of races, ethnicities, and social classes. Most of her books feature strong female characters with the common theme of friendship between girls. If You Come Softly, the story is told from Ellie's point of view. She is forced to face the racism within her own family when she falls in love with an African American boy. Throughout the novel she comments on the differences between their skin color when Miah holds her hand, or the look and feel of his dreads. In an interview Woodson was asked why she choose to write about serious issues in her response she said her goal as a writer was to "Change the world meaning changing people""s attitudes about things like teen pregnancy, racial issues, sexual abuse, class tension, and the foster care system. Why, because I want my readers to be aware of different types of people making them equip to effect change when they are older. Locomotion, a verse novel one of the few stories she has written about a young boy that has become part of the foster care system after his parents are killed in a fire. In this book Woodson introduces her readers to poetry. A form of writing that is connected to the verses written by rappers. She used the anger, sense of abandonment, and lost of family to tell Lonnie's story. She shares with the reader through Lonnie's eyes the lack of adult supervision and personal safety in state group homes.

Woodson has the ability to write with an authentic voice of today's young people. It don't matter is they live in the south or the Upper East Side of New York. She understand their problems and gives
them a voice.

Jacqueline Woodson webpage

The Other Side

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