Jason Reynolds is a new author to me. I plan to read his book Ghost, the first book in his Track series, and I’ve just finished As Brave As You.
I was caught right from the first chapter. Two brothers, city boys from Brooklyn, flinging dog poop (poopidity) off of shovels. Of course, the younger brother, Genie, isn’t as good at it as Ernie and a fresh pile flies backwards at a window of Grandmam’s house.
At heart, I’m just a big kid, so the flying poop made me laugh out loud. But then Genie starts telling the story of how he and Ernie came to be spending a month in Virginia with Grandmama and Grandpop. Ma and Dad are close to a divorce and are hoping some alone time can heal their marriage. The boys are not so sure about this plan. Genie has never met Grandpop in person before, so it comes as a huge surprise when Grandpop tells Genie that he’s blind.
The boys’ days seem mundane: up at 7:00 to help with chores, then down the hill to see Ernie’s almost-girlfriend. The boys do discover some of the perks of country life, like exploring the woods, including the creepy old house with a tree growing out of it.
Genie’s bond with Grandpop seems to open up another world though, as he is allowed access to Grandpop’s “inside outside” room full of plants and rescued sparrows. Grandpop hasn’t left the house, other than to go for doctor visits, for years. And Genie is the one he decides will help him get over his fears.
This family has a lot of turmoil besides Ma and Dad’s rocky marriage. Genie is nicknamed Little Wood, after Uncle Sherwood who died in Desert Storm. Grandpop doesn’t have much to say in answer to questions about the tree house and Grandmama doesn’t feel it’s her place to say. With Ernie busy being in love, Genie has to wade through all of this on his own.
This story doesn’t have a deep underlying adventure, or magic or even a huge mystery. What it has is a very well written realistic family. I enjoyed it immensely and I think most kids could relate to it on some level.
I love this quote from Grandmama:
Shoot, I been cool before cool was cool. Before cool was even a word.