Jason Reynolds and Comparing Author’s Works
Jason Reynolds has two books this year that I think are worth discussing. Usually we talk about not comparing a book to an author’s previous work. Well, in this case we absolutely can compare as they are both eligible titles and both quite wonderful.
Of course, we still have to compare them to all of the other eligible titles of the year, and not just to each other. I think, for the purposes of this blog and our Mock discussions, we would probably choose to have only one on our shortlist, just to create a bit of diversity in the conversation. Remember that our shortlist is likely a LOT shorter than the list of nominated titles the real committee will discuss. In the real committee discussions both titles could not only easily make the list of nominated titles, but both could actually earn an honor or a win. If two Jason Reynolds titles rise to the top of the list and are among the most distinguished, what might happen? The committee can’t just decide to pick one for sake of diversity the way that we can do here. They are each discussed as their own separate entities.
It’s an unlikely scenario that they both would end up with a Newbery sticker, but it’s a fun thought exercise to imagine what the process could look like in that locked room in January. As for our process here, do you think they both deserve discussion? Is one solidly more likely than the other to earn a medal? Does one deserve to be on our shortlist more than another? Where are they similar and where do those similarities end? Which one better addresses our criteria?
GHOST and AS BRAVE AS YOU both explore themes around the past and the way it haunts. GHOST uses running and track as both a plot point and a metaphor of fear and shame that moves the story forward where AS BRAVE AS YOU uses a familiar plot device of children traveling to visit family where they learn about life and themselves. In both cases these could be seen as easy, almost trite, ways to tell a story, but Reynold’s masterful writing and impressive character building keep both stories fresh and powerful. Gritty, real, emotional, and endlessly appealing, both novels speak truth and entertain. Reynold’s greatest strength, I think, is voice. There wasn’t a moment in either book when I was drawn out of the novel or found something felt inauthentic. I think I would need to do a re-read of each title before I could break down my thoughts enough to choose a favorite.
As an aside, I do think a conversation comparing GHOST to BOOKED could be interesting.
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About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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