In The World Belonged to Us, prolific and acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson transports readers on a nostalgic journey to a summer in Brooklyn “not so long ago.”
The first-person narrator evokes the world of her childhood through sensory details as well as reflections on the thoughts and feelings of her younger self, offering a joyful vision of a time in her life when the future seemed bright and full of possibility. Summer begins when someone opens a fire hydrant, soaking children who are already giddy with new freedom as they walk home on the last day of school. Every sunny day after, “from the end of breakfast to the beginning of dinner,” kids play a marvelous litany of games: double Dutch, kick the can, stickball, tag, hide-and-seek and more. They chase the ice cream truck and share frozen treats with friends. Sometimes knees get scraped, but older kids tell reassuring stories until “hurt knees [are] forgotten.”
Pura Belpré Honor illustrator Leo Espinosa (Islandborn) depicts a vibrant and diverse neighborhood filled with lots of visual callouts to the 1970s, from the cars to everyone’s groovy hairstyles and clothes. Colors, patterns and styles popular during this period abound, including mustard yellows, avocado greens, plaid bell-bottom pants and knee-high white socks worn with tennis shoes and athletic shorts. Adult readers will even pick up on a throwback vibe of the bubbly typeface used on the cover and throughout the book.
Young readers will find The World Belonged to Us to be far more engaging than a generic lecture about “the good old days.” It’s an immersive, hyperspecific invitation for readers from different generations to form connections with each other, fueled by the unmistakable, joyful energy of childhood summers. Adults should be prepared to share stories about what summer was like when they were young after reading this bright and emotionally engaging book.