Tag Archives: urban teens

When I Was the Greatest…

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

WhenIWasTheGreatest On this Father’s Day, a story of family, friends and love…

Ali lives in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is falling apart and life is gritty, but Ali doesn’t mess with the bad stuff. Instead he sides with his sister (he wouldn’t trade her for a bother even if the brother was Jay-Z), he hangs with Noodles and Needles on the stoop, and he takes boxing lessons. They all manage to get by until a party shines a light on the flaws they’ve ignored.

Jason Reynolds’ writing draws readers in and allows us to hang on the stoop with Ali and his friends. On the stoop, we get a bird’s eye view of life in Bed-Stuy. We learn that for Ali “family is family, no matter what,” but he’s lucky ‘cause we know that’s not the way it is for everyone – especially not for his neighbors Noodles & Needles. We also learn about Ali’s hopes, his fears and his anger. Most importantly though, the story leaves us pondering what friendship is, what love looks like, how we forgive our self, and how we forgive others when they hurt people long after we put the book down. When I Was the Greatest is a profound story that students will gobble up. Thank you Mr. Reynolds.