There is a wonderful reason that I must wait three more days to read All American Boys: A Novel by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. You see, back in July, I met Jason Reynolds at ILA. He gave me an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of All American Boys, and I had it at the very top of my Read-Soon-Pile. Shortly after my return from ILA, a former student visited. This particular former student had been a non-reader merely a year ago. Within the last year he discovered his favorite genre (YA-realistic fiction) and read every book that I put into his hands during the school year. Over the summer, he continued to read, and would visit periodically to borrow more books. Summer was coming to an end, and he had just dropped by to return a book that he had longer than he usually kept a book. “Mrs. Hoffman, sorry I had this so long. My dad read it too.” he said to me. My mouth dropped open, touched that this former non-reader had become such the reader that he was bonding with his dad over a book. In my moment of sappy thoughts of changing the world through family literacy, I became weak and placed my signed ARC of All America Boys into his open hand. “Fred*,” I said to him “I am letting you read this before I read it. This is a very important book. Read it, and get it back to me so that I can read it.”
Weeks passed, and the school year started. Fred is now in a different hallway at school, so I don’t see him too often, but when I do see him, I ask “Where’s my book? Are you bringing it back?” I get a nod, a mumble, a response that really isn’t a response, but I don’t get the book. I start to worry. It is a very important book that I need to read.
Two days ago, I was visited by three other boys (all three are friends with Fred, all three are struggling readers). We talked for a few minutes. I listened to their stories about summer break, and how the school year was going so far. When they finally started to head out, one of them mentioned that they were headed to Fred’s house. Right away I jumped in with “Hey, when you see him, would you tell him that I asked about getting my book back. I really want to read it before it comes out. It’s available in bookstores on September 29th, but I want to read it beforehand. Can you ask him?” All three boys exchanged glances, shuffled their feet, and shrugged their shoulders. My heart sank, and I pleaded “C’mon, guys. You know about the book? Did something bad happen to it? Am I not getting it back? Tell me.”
“You can tell her,” one of the boys nodded to another. “Go ahead.”
“You can’t have the book back yet, Mrs. Hoffman. Fred is reading it to us. He is taking it very seriously. He said it is an important book, and we are only about halfway through.”
*The student’s name has been changed.