There are a million little memories and gestures and moments and misunderstandings and risks and mistakes that bind the members of any family to each other. Sometimes those bonds start to fray and it seems as though you just can’t knit them back together. Sometimes we make mistakes…big mistakes. Sometimes we make mistakes that send a family careening into divorce with children trying to decide which parent to live with and sometimes we make mistakes that keep a son angry at a father for decades.
How do you keep yourself safe? How do you live your life without the mistakes that can be so deeply hurtful? Brothers Ernie, about to turn 14 and his younger brother Genie, live in a family where the parents are making each other sad. Both brothers are growing up trying to figure out how you do life right.
For Ernie it’s about knowing his karate moves and not hesitating to fight on behalf of his younger brother, not to mention his cool shades. Genie is a boy of a thousand questions and he keeps a numbered list of them so he can remember to go on the internet to satisfy his curiosity and find his answers. He knows all about the honey badger. But he is about to find himself in a world filled with questions and family mysteries.
Ernie and Genie, are packing their suitcases to spend a month with their grandparents down in rural Virginia. This means leaving Brooklyn and everything familiar. This also means maybe Ma and Dad might have some time to take a vacation to Jamaica to begin to reconnect the threads with one another. Maybe the sad look will disappear from Ma’s face forever.
Genie doesn’t want to make mistakes in life. He figures if he gets the answers to his questions he’ll have the answers to all of life’s questions and he’ll make his way without a lot of pain and hard times.
These two boys walk into a world of Grandpop and his secret and Grandma and her garden full of peas that need picking and her rule about calling five
times and that’s it. They’re going to perfect their poop scooping and flinging. They are going to meet the neighbors who have populated their grandparents lives long enough to see three generations.
What does it take to make it in this world? What does it mean to be brave? How long can you hold onto a grudge and have it make sense? When do you let something go?
This is a rich, layered story about things that matter for boys and for girls. These boys happen to be African American and their grandparents live in Virginia. But the authentic family dialog invites you into their culture and into those intimate places that are the weft and warp of their lives. Genie and his fears and frustrations will ring familiar to most of us as he struggles to accept himself and the imperfections of a world that holds some big mistakes.
978-1481415903 Ages 10 and up 410 pages
Read alikes: Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers; Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com