Books for ages 8-10: Ghost and Sunny by Jason Reynolds

Reynolds, Jason (2016). Ghost. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 

 

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ISBN: 978481450157

180 pages.

Ages 8 and up. 

(National Book Award finalist)

Ghost—given name Castle Crenshaw—has a few consistent things in his life. He has his mom, who he knows will stick with him no matter what. He has Mr. Charles, the man who owns a corner store near Glass Manor and sells him sunflower seeds every day. He has books about world records that tell him who is best at what in the world—who’s on top, and what they’ve done. And he has trouble—endless trouble. Ghost has stuff he’s running from in his past, but people around him don’t know that. Whether it’s kids making fun of Ghost’s shoes or his hair or the part of town he lives in, Ghost has gotten good at giving his classmates and his school as much trouble as they give him. It’s made it so almost nobody can see what Ghost is good at. But when Ghost challenges an elite track team to a race one day on a whim and beats their best runner, Coach sees for the first time the determination and talent Ghost has. But it takes a lot of running to completely get clear of trouble, and Ghost will have to work hard to stay on the team for good.

Reynolds packs a huge personality into a readable, immediate-feeling novel. Ghost is funny, charismatic, and earnest, and following his mistakes, whether small or big, feels like making a friend. The characters at Ghost’s school and on his track team–the majority of whom are black, still unfortunately a rarity in children’s literature– are full of life and personality quirks of their own. The book centers empathy—the process of getting to know someone else and their issues, and making space for them in order to develop a real connection. Every ten-year-old in the world should read this book, but older readers will enjoy it too. 

Reynolds, Jason (2018). Sunny. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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ISBN: 9781481450218

176 pages.

Ages 8 and up. 

Sunny Lancaster always comes first in the hundred-meter sprint. Every time. It’s because his father keeps pushing him—to be better, be faster, be strong, and carry the weight of his mother’s dreams with him wherever he goes. Whether it’s with his homeschool teacher, who makes him do math in order to eat breakfast, or at track practice, Sunny is On all the time and always running toward the next goal. But Sunny is tired of running, and one day he just stops. Running is always the same, start to finish, and Sunny wants to dance instead. In diary entries addressed to the diary itself, he writes about his love of words and sounds and rhythm, and makes charts and graphs to think about the different things happening in his life and understand them better. When he finally has the courage to explain to his coach what he wants, the people around him are for the first time able to try to figure out new ways for Sunny to take his rhythm to the field, and take on a new challenge.

The third book in Reynolds’ Track series, this is the one with the weirdest, most original voice. Sunny is full of poetry, jokes, explorations of words and sounds and phrases, and a little all over the place. His dreamy prose feels smart, though, and it’s clear that while he doesn’t have the same dreams as his father, he has a heart and determination to take him forward in life, whatever he ends up doing. There is the same cast of brilliant, three-dimensional characters that appear in Reynolds’ other Track books, plus some new ones (like blue-haired Aurelia) that will keep readers interested and alert as they learn about each person’s life.  

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