Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Today, for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m sharing another favorite from the “BEST of 2020” lists. EXQUISITE: THE POETRY AND LIFE OF GWENDOLYN BROOKS truly is exquisite! Suzanne Slade is another favorite author who continually teaches me about the craft of writing picture books.

Congratulations to Ruthie Kirk! You’ve won a copy of IS IT OVER? by Sandy Brehl!


Written by: Suzanne Slade

Illustrated by: Cozbi A. Cabrera

Abrams, 2020, biography

Suitable for ages: 6-9

Themes/topics: poetry, Great Depression, African American history


Gwendolyn grew up in the big city of Chicago with little money to spare.
Yet her family owned great treasure – a bookcase filled with precious poems.
Each night, her father read fine poetry aloud,
passionate and proud.
Nothing sounded sweeter to Gwendolyn
than Father’s deep voice
reciting the rhythmic words.


Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) is known for her poems about “real life.” She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty—showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression—all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.

Activities and Resources:

Poetry of course! Explore different kinds of poetry and choose one to try out with an idea or experience from your life.

Challenges: What challenges did Gwendolyn face? How did she overcome them. What challenges to you face. Choose one to write a poem about. How might you overcome it?

Why I like this book:

Suzanne Slade writes like a poet with well-chosen words and gorgeous imagery. And it’s always extra special when the style of writing fits so beautifully with the story. This story so wonderfully details how Gwendolyn loved poetry and writing to her core and pursued it with a hunger. It’s a great invitation for “ordinary” kids to find something worthy of poetry in their lives, to see some aspect of everyday life with poetic eyes like Gwendolyn Brooks did.

Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

6 thoughts on “Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

  1. What a beautiful biography about such a remarkable poet. I am not familiar with Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry, but I am intrigued. I especially like that she wrote about what she knew. Such a wonderful role model! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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