As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
Genie, who spends a lot of time on Google, and his “too cool” big brother Ernie, are Brooklyn kids. When their parents drop them off at their grandparents rural Virginia home, so that they can go and work on their marriage in Jamaica, the brothers don’t know what to expect. They had no idea they would be picking peas, scooping poop, or living without a computer in the hot Virginia sun. Genie finds plenty of questions to write in his notebook and Ernie finds a cute girl to try and impress. Chores and heat aren’t the only thing the boys learn about during their summer visit however, they also learn that their blind grandfather is a bit “different”, spending a lot of time in a secret room, and never going outside. The summer is full of adventure, getting to know their grandparents, and learning quite a bit about themselves as well.
Genre - Realistic Fiction
Text Structure - novel
Lexile Level - 750L
Themes - Family, brothers, intergenerational relationships, city vs. country, family history/heritage, honesty, bravery, loss, grief, finding answers to questions, forgiveness, coming of age
Rings of Culture represented -
Socio-Economic: working class
Why it’s VABBulous -
Jason Reynolds gets it right again, with rich with authentic representations of the complexities of black culture in a way that paints the many rings of culture within one family with an intricate brush. He does this all in a way that is engaging for middle grade students(and older readers too).
Reynolds use of language is beautiful. He captures the cadence, and intonation of African American Language across generations and geographical regions. In addition his attention to food, music, celebrations, games, dress, and crafts is both nuanced and overt.
Reynolds nails it with consistent rich, nuanced examples of unspoken, and unconscious rules of black culture that make this novel both a wonderful read and excellent choice for CLR teaching.
Some of the deep culture rules evident in the novel - relationships to animals, conversational patterns, concept of “self”, definition of insanity, tempo of work, patterns of handling emotions, attitudes towards elders, ideals of child rearing, tone of voice, nature of friendships, concept of past and future, tolerance of physical pain.
Ideas for CLR -
Set it Off (Into the Text)
Reading Teaparty: Validates/Affirms - sociocentrism, interpersonal, movement
- Introduce the text by engaging students in a Reading Tea Party activity to give students a “taste” of the book.
- Before the beginning of the lesson, write the quotes from the book (below), on small strips of paper.
- Divide class into small groups of 4-5 students. Distribute one sentence strip/quote to each group.
- Tell students to read their assigned quotes aloud and discuss them in their groups with the following questions -
- What do you think the quote means?
- Why do you think the quote is important to the storyline?
- Who do you think says your quote?
- What predictions can you make based on your quote?
5. Have each group share it’s quote with the rest of the class. Ask one student to read the quote aloud and then have the other group members explain their thoughts/predictions about the quote.
Sample Sentences from Book
- He walked over to the side of Grandma and Grandpop’s house, grabbed a rusty shovel, then came back to Genie and started scooping up crusty piles of dog poop.
The heat out there seems so much hotter than what Genie and Ernie were used to in Brooklyn.
I was in the army. Fought in Vietnam. First Battalion, Sixth Infantry. My position was rifleman.
You ain’t gon’ keep runnin’ in and out of my house all day, hear me? You either gon be in our out, so which will it be?
We go to church on Sunday. I don’t know what y’all do up there in the Big Apple.
He had never felt wet grass on his feet before, and he decided he didn't really like it.
Marcus Crabtree! It was always a bad sign whenever anyone in the Harris family called you by your full name.
That night Genie and Ernie devised a plan, because that was what detectives and criminals did….
I gave this a 7-10 on Responsive Dots. What did you give it?