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Middle Grade Review: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Title: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
AuthorJason Reynolds
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Middle Grade fiction
Pages: 208
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map): USA (NY)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

Review: I have read quite a few Jason Reynolds books in the past: Patina, Long Way Down, Ghost, The Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys. He is such a good and effective author for middle grade and YA readers. This book wasn't my favorite of his, but it is good.

Reynolds manages to write ten stories about kids as they leave school and some of the characters show up as main characters in one story and as background in others so there is continuity as well as completely new stories in each one.

My favorite story was one about a group of boys called the Low Cuts who spend their energy collecting coins. They will swipe them from teachers' desks, but never from drawers, they take coins from the ground, from change dishes in stores. What do they do with them? I won't tell, but it is definitely not the story I expected.

Check out the awards this book has won:

  • A National Book Award Finalist
  • Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
  • An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
  • A New York Times Best Children’s Book of 2019
  • A Time Best Children’s Book of 2019
  • A Today Show Best Kids’ Book of 2019
  • A Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2019
  • A School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2019

Challenges for which this counts: 

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