Black Girl Magic & For Every One

Poetry Month is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a fabulous reminder to seek out poetry and this year there are two new books to enjoy. They’re both inspirational and seem perfectly designed for gift giving.

Title: Black Girl Magic: A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne
Illustrator: Jess X. Snow
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 40
Genre: Poetry
Review copy: Library
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Black Girl, they say you ain’t ‘posed to be here

Much of what twenty-first century culture tells Black girls is not pretty: Don’t wear this; don’t smile at that. Don’t have an opinion; don’t dream big. And most of all, don’t love yourself. In response to such destructive ideas, internationally recognized poet Mahogany Browne challenges the conditioning of society by crafting an anthem of strength and magic undeniable in its bloom for all beautiful Black girls. She has travelled the world sharing her vision of Black Girl Magic, and now in collaboration with artist Jess X. Snow, presents her acclaimed tribute in a visual form.

Black Girl Magic is a journey from girlhood to womanhood and an invitation to readers to find magic in themselves.

Review: The end papers speak even before the poem begins. The red pages are filled with names of those who paved the way for this poet. The end note explains that this Roll Call is paying homage to those who “allowed this #BlackGirlMagic to exist.”

Before I even began reading, I was admiring the design of the book. It’s a small, slim, square book decorated with braids. The color scheme is black, red, white, with occasional gold. Stars are a recurring theme along with the braids. The art supports the poem wonderfully without being a distraction.

And the poem. It’s a celebration of Black Girl Magic transcending a variety of expectations many people have for Black girls. It’s a love letter to Black girls and to the women who have brought this book into being. It’s a testimony of the power of this Black Girl Magic. It will likely be a keepsake for many women in the future. It’s an inspirational book many people will want to share with the women and girls in their lives.

Recommendation: This is a lovely book and would be an excellent purchase for all ages. It would be a great one to share in classrooms too.

The text is almost exactly the same as the spoken word poem shared in the video below.

Title: For Every One
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Pages: 112
Genre: Poetry
Review copy: Purchased
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and later as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this stirring and inspirational poem is New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’s rallying cry to the dreamers of the world.

For Every One is just that: for every one. For every one person. For every one dream. But especially for every one kid. The kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to dream. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. Then eighteen. Then twenty-five. Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them. All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguish—because just having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.

A pitch perfect graduation, baby, or love my kid gift.

Review: I would have to agree. This would make a great gift, but I would add that like the title says, it is for everyone and not just graduates or kids. This book speaks some truths and offers hope. It doesn’t provide all of the answers to life, but it offers inspiration for getting out there and living, dreaming, and daring.

In the introduction, Reynolds explains that this poem was written over years and was basically a letter he was using to understand himself. I keep going back in the introduction to one sentence, “…they couldn’t get past how foolish it was to be foolish.” Many times we’re stuck because we’re afraid of appearing foolish. This really resonated with me. I know for certain I’ve missed out on things because of fears like this and this is not unique to me. Readers will easily connect with this idea that at times we have all hesitated because of these types of fears.

Reynolds does not write from a place of superiority. He opens with “Dear Dreamer,” and explains that he’s writing in the midst of uncertainty. There are brief moments of humor and many moments of fear and questioning. Throughout the poem readers see that this following of a dream is fraught with difficulties, but we are encouraged to jump anyway.

Recommendation: Get it soon. This poem will have you wanting to get about the business of chasing your dreams.