In keeping with our 2022 NEA Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read theme that anyone can be a hero, our team decided to show that with our middle-grade books. These are books that are targeted at late elementary, middle school, and early high school students, but are perfect for any reader.
The first middle-grade book we have chosen is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Jason Reynolds is an award-winning author, and Long Way Down has even won the John Newberry Award. This award is given to the author of books considered a distinguished contribution to American children’s literature. Also, if you were in Holland, Michigan, in March of 2018, you may already be familiar with Jason Reynolds because he had an author visit at the Herrick District Library.
Long Way Down is an interesting book. Will, the main character, is a fifteen-year-old boy who witnesses his brother, Shawn, die because of gun violence. Will then takes it into his own hands to kill his brother’s murderer because of the neighborhood’s rules: don’t cry, don’t snitch, and take revenge. However, a ride in his apartment building’s elevator, which is the main setting for the book, and some frank talks with people from his past make Will rethink if following the neighborhood rules is something he should do.
Another thing that makes Long Way Down interesting is that it is written in verse. Now, if you participated in the 2021 NEA Big Read Lakeshore and read along as we worked our way through An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, you will be an old pro at reading verse. Though even if you did not join us for An American Sunrise, Reynolds writes in such a way that there are still poetic qualities along with a clear storyline and many themes, which we will discuss in the next blog.