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When I Was the Greatest

Jason Reynolds
Illustrated by Akhran Girmay

From the Carnegie and UKLA winning author, a coming-of-age novel about friendship and loyalty across neighbourhood lines – illustrated by award-winner, Akhran Girmay.

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From Carnegie winning author, a coming-of-age novel about friendship and loyalty across neighbourhood lines – illustrated by award-winner, Akhran Girmay.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighbourhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble – and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool . . . until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be . . . somewhere they never should’ve been – where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

A funny and rewarding read.’ Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review
‘Fiction with heart . . . unexpectedly gorgeous.’ Booklist
‘Moving and thought-provoking . . . defies readers’ expectations.’ Kirkus

Critic Reviews

Reynolds' voice is impressively fully formed and the comic-like illustrations in this edition from the award-winning Bristolian Akhran Girmay give it a fresh new look. Reynolds is a master at making us feel at home in other people's neighbourhoods... You can see how Reynolds has become one of America's favourite children's authors.

The Times, Book of the Week
Critic Reviews

Oozes with authenticity . . . characters are well developed; their sweetness, sassiness, and even stupidity are endearing and relatable . . . Reynolds is an author to watch.

School Library Journal, Starred Review
Critic Reviews

Upends tired stereotypes . . . while leaving in enough sass and grit to keep the story believable. A funny and rewarding read.

Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review
Critic Reviews

Urban fiction with heart, an unexpectedly gorgeous meditation on the meaning of family, the power of friendship, and the value of loyalty.

Critic Reviews

A moving and thought-provoking study of the connectivity among a family and friends that plays upon and defies readers' expectations. An author worth watching.

Critic Reviews

Jason Reynolds is a genius. A true magician of words and ideas whose books never fail to fire the imaginations (and capture the hearts).


Jason Reynolds is a critically acclaimed American writer and poet and winner of the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers. From Jason: “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…

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