Written by: Jason Reynolds
Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley Newton
For ages: YA Middle Grades (mention of maternal death)
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Growing Up, Sports, Black Culture & Identity, Track & Field, Dance, Single Parenthood, Friendship, Homeschooling, Resilience, Own Voices.
Summary: This is the third in Jason Reynolds’ Track series, this time about team member Sunny.
We find out that Sunny is homeschooled by his mother’s friend Aurelia, and she’s his best (and only) friend. Sunny’s mother died giving birth to Sunny, and his father has never healed from that trauma. Neither has Sunny. Because Sunny’s mother was a runner, his father wants Sunny to be a runner too. But Sunny just wants to be a dancer. Although Sunny doesn’t want to be a runner, he doesn’t want to quit the track team either. This book navigates Sunny taking control of his life through reading diary entries in an emotionally raw way as he’s trying to figure out what he wants, and how to tell his father.
Something I really like about the series is the way we learn more about the other characters by way of the internal monologues in other books. The crush that Patina thinks Sunny might have on her (that she may or may not return) is answered here, for example. Knowing that I’m nearing the end of the series is a bit distressing, I want their stories to continue! All in all, a very solid and quick read just slightly over 150 pages that ends with the typical cliffhanger during a track meet.
About the Author & Cover Artist:
Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words. Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:
“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.
So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!
I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.
And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.
Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”
Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.
Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.
Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.
The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.