This posting is giving a SHOUT OUT to Jason Reynolds, who has been called ‘a fine heir to the Walter Dean Myers tradition’ (Bulletin for the Centre for Children’s Books). Over the past several years, Reynolds has published books that have a strong appeal for middle school and YA readers. He’s won a batch of awards (Coretta Scott King author honors, The Walter Dean Myers Award, the Kirkus prize, and he was a National Book Award Finalist. Significant too, is that the heroes of his books are African American young adolescent and adolescent characters, thus demonstrating that the author is to carry high the Walter Dean Myers torch.
It is worth noting the bio that is featured on the cover of The Boy in the Black Suit
Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. If you’re on the train talking to your friends, and you see him, know that he’s listening to every single word you’re saying. Yes, he’s minding your business. Because he’s nosy. And you inspire him. Because you’re his hero. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?
Over the past month, I’ve read five titles by Jason Reynolds, two recent publications and two from the beginning of his writing career. I am a fan and certainly look forward to reading anything he writes.
Visit him at jasonwritesbooks.com
MY NAME IS JASON. MINE TOO:OUR STORY. OUR WAY (2009) (with Jason Griffin)
This book seems to be Reynolds’s earliest publication, now out of print. Jason Reynolds wrote the poetry. Jason Griffin created the art. The two Jasons, one black, one white, joined forces and friendship as college roommates and collaborated to present this publication of word and visuals that pack a punch visually and emotionally.
THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT (2015)
Matt wears a black suit because he just got a job in the local funeral parlour, a job that helps him cope with the recent death of his mother and the fact that his father, a drunk, ends up in a hospital after being hit by the car. Matt finds comfort taking part in funerals. His friendship with Chris, Mr. Ray (owner of the parlour) and a girl named Love help Matt get through troubled times. In fact, his growing relationship with Love, who has also been through tough times, helps Matt to think about the boy he is and the man he wants to be.
FOR EVERY ONE: A poem. A nod. A nothing to lose (2018)
An extended poem that Reynolds had been working on for a number of years, written in the form as a letter. The poem is a testament to Langston Hughes “Hold Fast to Dreams”, in that it invites readers to never give up
(Your dream) is the thing that makes
but not the thing that makes
The courage in trying,
The passion in living,
and the acknowledgement and appreciation of
the beauty happening around
you does that.
This poem seems to have been a cathartic experience for the author as he came to grips with his dreams of becoming an author and a ‘responsible’ adult. Reynolds does not hesitate to add that the his words of encouragement and inspiration were written more for himself, hoping that readers might some comfort within. In fact, the book’s dedication reads: For You. For Me.
MILES MORALES: SPIDER MAN by Jason Reynolds (2018)
Miles has problems at school and problems at home and an ability to turn into the heroic Spider-Man (yes, he’s that Miles Morales). Mr. Reynolds is quite the prolific author and this novel seems to add another flavour – another direction – to his writing talents in a story that is both realistic and fantasy adventure and sure to engage adolescent readers who are Marvel fans.
SUNNY by Jason Reynolds (2018)
Sunny is one of the best runners in the 1600 but one day he decides that running is boring and he gives up his passion and talent for track, replacing it with the boom-bap-bap of dance. Thoughts of his dead mother and confessions about his life choices are written as Sunny’s diary entries. This novel, is the third book in Reynolds’ terrific Track series (Ghost, Patina), which, for me, seem to be getting better and better.
WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST (2014)
Reynolds first novel sets the path for one terrific author who excels in portraying the African American youth experience. Ali is the hero of this story, set in a ‘messy’ Brooklyn neighbourhood. Ali is dealing with family issues (his mother is a tough cookie, his father is absent). Noodles and Needles are brothers who live next door and Ali the boys don’t do much without each other, which eventually includes a venture into a neighbourhood party which is out of their league and leads to unexpected trouble.
OTHER BOOKS BY JASON REYNOLDS
ALL AMERICAN BOYS (with Brendan Kiely)
AS BRAVE AS YOU
LONG WAY DOWN
GHOST (Track series)
PATINA (Track series)