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Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

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From National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a novel told in ten blocks, showing all the different directions a walk home can take.

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.

204 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 8, 2019

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About the author

Jason Reynolds

77 books8,577 followers
Jason Reynolds is an American author of novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audience. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, Jason Reynolds moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,822 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,711 followers
August 15, 2019
This review was going to begin like all the best reviews. With a new Jason Reynolds books falling from the sky. “Falling from the sky” is probably a bit hyperbolic, but that’s what it feels like whenever a new Reynolds hits the market. Now due to the focus required of my job, I couldn’t care less when Reynolds has written a new book for teens. As far as I’m concerned, books are best when written for the 0-14 crowd and anything that speaks to readers of more mature years is apocryphal. Untenable. Untouchable. And I think Mr. Reynolds is still seen as primarily a YA author at this point. This, in spite of the fact that he’s written an entire series (beginning with Ghost) for middle grade readers, to say nothing of As Brave As You. So you can keep all that teen stuff. Hand me the Reynolds meant for the smaller fry. Now Look Both Ways isn’t baby fare, by any means. It’s probably accurate to call it straight up middle school/junior high fiction. That sad little neither-here-nor-there age range where you’ve too many hormones to pass as elementary, but not quite enough to slip unnoticed into a high school hallway. Nobody knows quite what to do with middle school books. Do you shelve them in the kid’s section of the library/bookstore or the YA section? Or do you give them their own section entirely? Well, good news. I know exactly what to do with this particular middle school book. You need to weigh it down with awards, so many that it can no longer stand under its own weight and is forced to stagger to the display front and center in the library where all the best books go. Then, and only then, will it have found its true home.

One day. Ten stories. When you look at a group of kids tearing out of a school, what do you know about them? What do you assume? These kids all have their own problems, some big and some small. There’s the kid that won’t let go of his blue ball and needs a crazy piggyback ride from a massive friend just to navigate the halls. There’s the girl who’s always writing in her journal, no one ever knowing what it says. The kid terrified of dogs, who’s working out an escape plan in his brain. The pickpockets. The stinky romantics. The beaten and the yuksters and the one that’s clutching a little broom without even remembering it’s there. Ten stories. Not much room to tell what needs to be said, but by the end you’ll realize you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Due to the nature of my chosen profession I read a lot of novels for kids. Let me let you in on a little trade secret: 80% of them? Very samey. I’m reading books that have garnered starred reviews from professional journals left and right, and half the time I’m bored out of my ever loving skull. 2019 has turned out to be a particularly dire year as well. The running gag amongst my librarians is that if the novel you’re reading doesn’t contain some long treatise on loss then check the publication date. You’re probably reading something from 2018. So you want to know the first reason I was looking forward to reading Reynolds’ latest? It wasn’t because it was by him, necessarily. No, it had a lot more to do with the sweet page size (208 and not a paper fiber more) to say nothing of the fact that ten stories equals a significant decrease in the likelihood that these would all be stories about dead parents. I cracked open the book and you know what the first story was about? Boogers! Right there I was officially in love. Then, as I read, I remembered something I’d forgotten. Jason Reynolds? That guy knows how to write. Knows how to go for the emotional jugular. Is aware that even the shortest, silliest story (and, let us be clear, this book begins with boogers and practically ends with a can’s worth of body spray) can work when you catch a reader off-guard with a quick, hard truth. Doggone it. This book is really good.

Let us imagine for a moment that instead of reading this review you are instead attending a master class on writing, through the framework of Jason Reynolds’ books. I hand you Look Both Ways and ask you to consider some of the ways in which this book is better than better than average. We’ll begin at the beginning. Page two, to be precise. After an opening that, for the record, delivers what may well be the best line about snot in the whole history of children’s literature, we meet our two characters, Jasmine and TJ. Their story is all of fifteen pages long in total. That’s fifteen pages where Reynolds has the chance to flesh out their character traits and to nail down their personalities. Only he doesn’t take fifteen pages to do that. He takes two to three, and he does it by showing how they open their lockers. Here is how TJ opens his: “TJ spun the black lock dial confidently, like he could feel the difference in the grooves and would know when he landed on the right numbers.” Here is how Jasmine opens hers: “… Jasmine, unlike TJ, turned her lock with an intense concentration, glaring at it as if the combination could up and change at any second, or as if her fingers could stop working at any moment.” Consider that. Two sentences and you now know everything you may ever need to know to understand these characters. The beginning of a book is never a mic drop, but that comes close. Real real close.

Ten stories means ten challenges. How do you organize your tales? How much variety can there be between them while still allowing them to feel like they’re part of the same book? They’re all told in the third person, though you do occasionally get a glimpse into a thought process here or there. Some are funny. Some are pretty serious, though none are dire (a trademark of children’s rather than YA literature). Death pops up but doesn’t stick around too long. In a particularly neat twist, because these stories all take place on the same day, characters and incidents that you saw earlier (like when our characters walk by “a cloud of body spray that smelled like cinnamon if cinnamon smelled like garlic”) pop up later, in context. Close readings and rereadings are rewarded amply here. But like any good writer Reynolds had to give this book some kind of overarching theme. Just saying it’s the same kids from the same school at the same time on the same day isn’t enough. So he threw in a reoccurring school bus falling from the sky. It’s subtle, but it’s works.

When I grow up, I want to be able to write descriptions as well as Mr. Reynolds. I’m already older than he is, so this dream is running into a bit of an early snag. No matter. I will now proceed to write some of my favorite lines of this book, out of context, but you’ll still get a bit of the flavor:

“Jasmine Jordon said this like she said most things – with her whole body. Like the words weren’t just coming out of her mouth but were also rolling down her spine.”

“And Jasmine would laugh because his jokes were always funny even though she knew they were almost never jokes.”

“The way they were – a braid of brilliance and bravado – concerned everyone.”

“He tapped his wrist where there was no watch. Checked it like checking a pulse. A live one, for sure.”

“There’s a feel in the air. A stickiness like walking through an invisible syrup. A thickness to life.”

“Always smelled like incense smoke trying to mask dirty mop water.”

I’m not being fair, taking all these lines out of context. Out of their pages where they glint. You know when you’re reading a book and you run across sentences that stands out, but not in a showy way, from all the others on the page. That little glinting is what these lines display. If you put them all back they’ll still work their magic and, what’s more, they’ll let you get to the best part of any Jason Reynolds story: the payoff at the end. I suspect he’d deny it, but Reynolds has figured out how to get kids to read. On his website, he says that kids who “hate” reading don’t hate books. They just hate reading boring books. Now I’m enough of a child myself to hate boring books too, so the short tales in this book were just my speed. And as I read, I realized that if I made it through a story, I’d get a little kick at the end. Sometimes it’s a kick that makes you want to cry. Other times, laugh. But whatever it does, it makes you feel, so you give in to it and keep reading story after story. For the kick. For the glint. For the feel.

Jason Reynolds won’t do a number of things for the kids that read this book. He won’t give them hardened one-dimensional villains and heroes. He won’t hand them boring overdone tropes that they’ve encountered a hundred times before. He will completely fail to bore them to death. He won’t make them sorry they picked this book up. Heck, he won’t even write a chapter without slipping in some universal truth about humanity. So what will he do? He’ll make your kids want to be better writers. Even if they’ve never written a word in their lives. Especially then. And he’ll make you want to be a better person for those kids. The ones that disappear into the crowds and sometimes don’t even see one another. The ones that only an author can really see. A good one.

A Jason Reynolds.

For ages 10 an up.
Profile Image for Julie Zantopoulos.
Author 3 books2,245 followers
September 24, 2019
Very consumable stories that are all hard-hitting, impactful, and essential for middle grade readers. However, it does cover some really intense topics like bullying, homophobia, parents with cancer, the death of siblings, etc. It covers these themes in age-appropriate ways and tastefully. It's diverse and beautifully written (uniquely written, too). I connected with some stories more than others but overall, this is a really great read for middle grade readers.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,481 reviews29.4k followers
October 21, 2019
For many children, when the bell rings at the end of the day, it signifies excitement, the start of fun and adventure. When children walk home from school, the freedoms are sometimes greater since they’re not limited by the confines of the bus. However, there are other risk factors as well.

Jason Reynolds’ newest book, Look Both Ways , which was recently named a National Book Award finalist, looks at 10 different journeys home—each characterized by a different block on the way home from school—and what they signify. They are somewhat interrelated, in that characters are mentioned in more than one story.

From the boy plotting a "safe" route home to escape a dog he’s afraid of to a girl returning back to school after being out with sickle-cell disease, the stories are at times humorous, at times poignant, and at times powerful.

In just under 200 pages, Reynolds tackles homophobia, parental illness, letting friends know they have hygiene issues, fear about a parent’s safety, and other heavy issues, yet he doesn’t do it in a heavy-handed way.

This is the first middle-grade book I’ve read and I was impressed with Reynolds’ deft storytelling. This book didn’t quite click for me, however, but I did feel the balance between humor and seriousness that Reynolds tried to convey.

This will be a good book for the middle-grade audience, as they may identify with one or more of the stories yet won’t feel singled out as they might if they read a whole book about a parent dying or bullying. Definitely one worth discussing with your children or your students.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.

You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,485 reviews189 followers
February 2, 2021
3.5 Stars

Well there were some wonderful stories in this middle school book. My favourite one was where the kids were making money to buy ice-cream. That one hit me right in the feels. The characters are too young for a high school library in terms of curriculum levels for assessments, but I think some older students would still enjoy this. A lovely book.
Profile Image for Rosh [busy month; will catch up soon!].
1,360 reviews1,204 followers
September 25, 2021
A wonderful collection of ten stories all set around a common theme of children walking home from school. The characters overlap in a few of the stories but the main character(s) are distinct for each tale.

This isn’t a typical children’s anthology and these are the reasons why:

👉 So many authors steer clear of "taboo" topics -- parental illness, deaths, abuse, bullying, homosexuality -- and make children's fiction goody-goody happy experiences. Not Jason Reynolds.

👉 So many authors will try to incorporate higher level vocabulary in their works so that the book ends up as an "educational" experience for its young readers. Not Jason Reynolds. A tardigrade isn't called a tardigrade, it's a water bear. That's indicative of an author who knows what his readers enjoy.

👉 Show me one author who can write a story around boogers and still make it so heartfelt... Imagine a middle grader deciding on a book. Will boogers appeal to him? Heck, yeah! The book is full of wit that will appeal to its target readers.

👉 "Stop acting like children, children." - the one sentence all teenage children will identify with. And that's what they want from books - something that resonates with them! All the stories deal with things that happen in regular children's lives, with a bit of pizzazz added to make them snazzier. Video games, ice-creams, school buses, homework,... Everything that actual children can connect with. And what child wouldn't love to know the mystery of the falling school bus!?

👉 One would assume that Jason Reynolds writes for black or brown kids. But if you see carefully, nowhere is the skin tone or race of the child mentioned outright. There are references to dreadlocks and Afros. But the stories could be about any child who feels invisible. I loved how the stories catered to the underdog. The main characters are all average children, not exceptional in any way except for their situation.

👉 The back cover of the book declares in big, bold letters: “How You Gon’ Change the World?” Every single child in this book is taking baby steps towards changing the world around them. Isn't that the best place to begin? Charity begins at home, after all. What a beautiful way for children to know that every little gesture of theirs makes a difference!

Many of the stories provided what I call the "Kite Runner" kind of ending: bittersweet, not complete, but with enough of a clue to know what might happen next. It's the toughest kind of ending to pull off, and I found it working well in this book. But this isn’t something that works for many short story readers, and I'm honestly not sure of how this particular style of ending will work for children. But I loved most of the endings and so I’ll not hold it against the book.

I am sure it is clear by now how much I adored this book. Here’s a brief feedback and individual ratings of the ten stories:

1. Water Booger Bears: Some people might go "Ewwww" at the sight of this title. But remember that it is written for children. This is a beautiful story of two caring friends, with a gross-yet-interesting childish conversation.

2. The Low Cuts Strike Again: Four friends who seem to pinch pennies from other children. Are their intentions nefarious? (The ending left me teary-eyed)

3. Skitter-Hitter: How a broken skateboard ends up breaking more things than intended. I loved the writing style of this story, the way it was set in the hypothetical revealing the actual.

4. How to Look (Both) Both Ways: How a child is trying her best to ‘look all ways” in her bid to feel okay and independent.

5. Call of Duty: The story of two friends who are champion video game players, until one of them realises what it means to go beyond the Call of Duty even in real life.

6. Five Things Easier to do than Simeon’s and Kenzi’s Secret Handshake: If I tell you that this is the story of the biggest boy in class and the smallest boy in class, you might assume it's the David and Goliath story, a bully and a victim-turned-victor. Nothing could be further away from the truth. A wonderful story of an unlikely friendship.

7. Satchmo's Master Plan: How a little boy devises a master plan to outrun a new dog on his school route.

8. Ookabooka Land: How a little girl takes special efforts with a large dose of humour to spread smiles in the lives of those around her.

9. How a Boy Can Become a Grease Fire: When a boy likes a girl but knows that he “stinks” literally, he “gets by with a little help from his friends”.

10. The Broom Dog: If you need one example to understand the power of Jason Reynolds’ imagination, this is the story to go for. (Of course, you won’t get the beauty of it unless read the first nine. 😉)

Average of the above: 4.45, which is what this book gets from me. Rounding it up to 5 stars, because I loved it too much to round it downwards mathematically.

I'll not go into recommendations for this book. It's not written for adults and it won't work for most adults. Those who like their short stories to be neatly tied at the end with a bow on top won't enjoy this book. Those who like their writing to be surreal or have deeper meanings won't like this book. Those who think that children's writing must be full of happy topics won't like this book. But if you wish to try a slightly different kind of middle grade fiction, this could be a book you might relish for its pragmatic approach. But this will be a beautiful book for children, that's for sure. It's intelligent and entertaining and emotional, all at once.

If you are still wondering whether to try this book, I'll just say... Don't read this book with jaded, middle-aged eyes. Read it with the innocence and curiosity of childhood, remembering your befuddling teen years. Read it with your inner child awakened. Read it to meet some really brave-hearted children who are trying to change the world in their own tiny way. Read it a story at your time, taking your pace to savour the hidden beauty behind the outward simplicity.

I don't want to end before highlighting the beauty of the title. While the immediate reference is obviously to road crossings (as all the tales unfold while the children are walking home), the title also applies to the characters and our perceptions about them. For instance, if you see "Tall hefty student", you think "bully". He's not. If you read "student with injuries and doesn't want to go to school", you think "victim". He's not. If you see the boy discussing the qualities of boogers, you only see the lack of hygiene. Will you also see his caring nature towards his ill friend? If you see that a child is picking coins from wherever possible, you might see a thief. Will you also wonder what makes a child resort to such actions?

There are so many times we are quick to judge on appearance and assumptions. But we need to "look both ways" - be ready to see the other side of the picture also. Things are never what they appear to be. So, the question to ask yourself after reading this book, especially if you are an adult: do you look both ways, or do you judge on hearing just one side of the story?

Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun.
Profile Image for Gretchen Rubin.
Author 42 books83.8k followers
July 2, 2020
A great children's book with an interesting structure: each chapter is about a different child or set of children walking home from school.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,071 reviews104 followers
February 17, 2023
Well and to be honest, I actually only considered Jason Reynolds' 2021 Carnegie Medal winning middle grade Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks because the Fiction Club of the Children's literature Group on Goodreads was doing a Carnegie Medal project. But this having been said and totally notwithstanding, I do, I must happily and readily admit that I have totally and absolutely adored, that I have absolutely loved loved love every single page of Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks and have found Reynolds' ten interconnecting stories of middle school life delightfully diverse and with scenarios both contemporary and also at the same time and place defying (in other words universally relevant). And thus and therefore, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, it is a wonderful, readable and often also sweetly relatable combination of humour and seriousness (not only for my adult reading self, but also and probably even more so for my inner child, who has felt herself understood, spoken and listened to with Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks and has also felt vindicated for saying (pretty much forever it seems) that many of the issues facing today's middle school students are in fact not really all that different from my own issues at middle school decades previously, and yes, that this is of course both encouraging and also rather frustrating and freaky at the same time.

But first and foremost I oh so much treasure and appreciate how and that Jason Reynolds with Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks acknowledges relevant and essential issues and problems that many young people and if they are in middle school (and earlier) often must face and handle (racial intolerance, questions of sexuality, health and welfare, family dysfunction etc, etc.) but that Reynolds thankfully and appreciatively does not ever wallow in this, but instead has penned a wonderful and delightful collection of stories in Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, providing a nicely balanced array of parts, of texts both laugh out loud funny and also sometimes heartbreakingly serious and painful, showing a painting, a realistic portrait of life and of school life in particular (and that indeed, one needs to as the book title says so tellingly and appropriately "look both ways" to see and to understand, that both what is above the surface and below the surface must get equal textual time and indeed they very much do so from Gordon Reynolds' pen in Look Both Way: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks).

Five stars for Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, for a wonderful and emotionally satisfying (and often also both though provoking and laughter inducing) reading experience that truly shows and demonstrate universality while at the same time also totally and wonderfully celebrating and focusing on diversity and that differences are good and also something essential and necessary (and shame on ANYONE seeking to challenge or to ban Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks and that those of you taking issue with for example boogers and same sex kissing being featured and being discussed, well yes, you are at best and indeed being laughable and absolutely ridiculous).
Profile Image for Julia Sapphire.
546 reviews1,050 followers
August 19, 2020
I received an ARC of this book at BEA, in exchange for an honest review.

2.5 stars

I loved Reynolds previous book "Long Way Done", it was incredible and I was excited to read more work from him. When I saw "Look Both Ways" at BEA I was super excited to pick it up!! So this book is a middle-grade novel that is a "tale told in ten blocks". Such an interest concept! This showcases the lives of young kids, their neighborhoods and their friendships with others.

Honestly, I was let down by this book in a lot of aspects. I expected there to be more of a powerful message or showing even more struggles that kids go through around this age, then there were. And messages and some issues they face are prevalent just not at the degree that I think they could have been.

Though this book does mention some issues the children are facing. For example, things that are mentioned are cancer and homophobia. This is middle grade so I do not expect it to go too in depth with these issues but it was so lovely to see the way the children supported Bit's mom during chemo. I also liked how someone stuck up for one boy who kissed another boy. But it did not really have many discussions about that. Plus there was some bullying in regards to that part of the book as well.

I feel like this will be a real hit or miss book for people. On one hand, it deals with some important issues, has nice writing, and fleshed out characters. On the other hand, I think it could have been a lot better. I think they could have been more substance to it or a deeper meaning. I also never felt attached to any of the characters and the story. I think maybe if the book was longer it would have felt more of a complete story. I felt like it ended when things could have just been getting started. Though I am not the target audience for this book, so I cannot speak on how a middle-grade audience will feel about it. There's a lot of talk about boogers and handshakes, so a lot of childish themes.

I just think that if this was longer, I would have had more time to grow a connection to these characters and this story. I will be picking up more Jason Reynold books in the future. I am looking forward to seeing more people's thoughts on this book as we get closer to the release date and when it is released. Also interested to see how children enjoy this one.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
September 17, 2019
Go into this one knowing it's a series of short stories linked together because all of the kids go to the same school. There are characters who cross over and reappear, but this isn't about how they intersection, necessarily. It's about how they share the same common ground but live such vastly different lives. It's a peek inside the bus windows, so to speak, as kids deal with a whole host of challenges at home and outside the home.

What I really loved about this one is that these are such middle school kids. Some are super mature and ready to take on the world. Others are just getting the chance to walk to school on their own and learning what it means when they rush and fall over.

It's not my favorite Reynolds story, as I love the intensity of and plot of some of his other stories better. But this is a powerful addition to his catalog and one that will resonate with so many young readers.
Profile Image for Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner).
381 reviews1,715 followers
January 18, 2021
Jason Reynolds is really writing some of the absolute best books for young people. I will always recommend them to every reader.

This one isn't so much a novel but separate vignettes that weave together beautifully. Listened on audio which was a great full cast performance.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,825 reviews35 followers
December 3, 2022
Could a school bus fall from the sky? Find out how in this collection of loosely related short stories. Which will your favorite? The one about the pick pockets, the one with the first kiss , the one about the young comedienne or one of the other 7 chapters (blocks)? After finishing it, I couldn't help but think that it kind of reminded me of Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks.
Profile Image for disco.
560 reviews221 followers
May 18, 2020
10 short stories that all share a common connection: Jason Reynolds. Can I get an amen?!
Profile Image for RoRo.
268 reviews64 followers
March 25, 2021
4.5 stars

I love this book! It is just amazing!! It has a great storyline and great diversity!!

The only reason I took off .5 stars is because I was kind of confused who was who but that's it!!

Jason Reynolds is an amazing author and the story is just a great big life lesson!!

I am extremly glad that my teacher choose this book for book club because I would have never read it otherwise!! Its just amazing!!
I reccomend this to everybody who is look for a great diverse book!!
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
527 reviews9,490 followers
October 7, 2019
I loved this book. Reynolds is so observant and his stories are so specific and subtle. Which is especially rare in work for young people. The characters are real and contain their own traumas without this being a book about trauma.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,839 reviews4,673 followers
October 11, 2020
Y’all he did it again. Jason Reynolds is such a talented writer. This is one that I definitely want to listen to again. I want to go into details about why I loved this book but I think I’m going to save it for me full review.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,021 reviews203 followers
October 11, 2019
I’m somewhere between a 3 and a 3.5.

I’ve always wanted to read a Jason Reynolds book because I’ve heard him speak on multiple occasions and he is amazing. So when this book was nominated for the National Book Award, I decided to give it a go without even checking out its premise.

You may think that my rating is low but I assure you that there’s nothing wrong with the book. The writing style itself is wonderful and easy to read, and the different narrators for each of the stories in the audiobook do their job beautifully. This is definitely one of those books whose experience is enriched in the audio format. The stories themselves are happy, sad, funny and everything in between; while also dealing with important topics like bullying, homophobia, death or cancer in the family etc in a simple and easy to understand manner. I didn’t realize this was a middle grade book until I was almost done with the first story, and that’s probably the main reason I couldn’t connect with it personally.

To conclude, I think this book is a very good choice for young readers or anyone who is more accustomed to reading middle grade books (hence able to rate and review them more accurately). I think it might also be an interesting book to read along with your kids and help them understand the various issues that are talked about in it. And I would definitely recommend the audiobook because it’s narration is perfect.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,211 reviews145 followers
January 16, 2022
I can't deny the magic of books like this one, which weave together separate yet connected stories set in a shared public space. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks would be less effective if not for the crossover elements in its ten short stories; the characters frequently make cameo appearances in the sections that aren't about them, creating a sense of narrative unity even though the stories stand independent from one another. The neighborhood is home to every sort of kid, but they all have difficulties to endure, and that's easier with friends to help heft the burden. We begin on Marston St., where Jasmine Jordan and TJ Jumper are walking home after school. As usual, Jasmine is grossed out that TJ doesn't keep his nose clear of...yucky particles...and TJ is baffled as to why it's a big deal to her. Jasmine has bigger concerns, such as her parents' separation and her own flareups of sickle cell anemia, but having a low-stress gripe session with TJ is a break from all of that. She doesn't even mind if he uses his shirt to wipe his nose.

We move ahead to Placer St., where John John Watson, Francy Baskin, Trista Smith, and Bit Burns—collectively known as the Low Cuts—make their mark. They swipe loose change wherever they can get it, including the pockets of kids they beat up, but people tend to cut them a break because the Low Cuts all have parents with cancer. Sure, they use their purloined pennies to buy candy from Ms. Ceecee, but their intentions are nobler than they seem. You have to give the Low Cuts a chance if you want to learn what they're all about, and it's not indulging their sweet tooth. Bastion St. is where Pia Foster and Stevie Munson cross paths on a fateful afternoon. Pia skateboards inside and around Latimer Middle School every day, and Stevie is regularly bullied by a group of boys led by Marcus Bradford. Pia and Stevie have interacted a few times, and are maybe almost friends, but the relationship takes a hit when Marcus uses Stevie to perpetrate a nasty prank on Pia. Stevie has kept mum about the bullying all this time, but now that his mother is aware and ready to intercede, is it too late to ever be friends with Pia? Portal Ave. is Fatima Moss's after-school destination, as long as she can avoid bad luck on the way there. She keeps a detailed written walkthrough of how to make it home without getting hurt or humiliated, but the plan never goes right. Her parents want to hire a babysitter, but Fatima relishes her independence. Maybe she and Benni, an eccentric local lady who adds color to Fatima's walk home, can team up and make it work.

Next is Burman St., where Bryson Wills has a problem. He and Ty Carson are video game fanatics, spending any spare time refining their skills, but the guys at school hound Ty after an innocent incident makes it fun to pretend they believe he's attracted to other guys. Bryson's intervention is timely and smooth, but nonetheless triggers fisticuffs between him and the guys, and now Ty wonders if there's truth to the idea that he and/or Bryson is gay. At least the two have years of adolescence ahead to discern any deeper feelings they might have. What's the story with Simeon Cross, a giant of a kid, and Kenzi Thompson, the smallest boy in class? We find out in our stroll down Chestnut St. The best of friends, Kenzi navigates the crowded halls of Latimer Middle School by riding piggyback on Simeon, though teachers frown on it. Both boys have had their share of heartache at home, but enjoy hanging around the neighborhood together, and that's adequate compensation for past troubles. On Nestle St., Satchmo Jenkins is a nervous mess in the presence of any dog larger than a fluff ball. Ever since a rottweiler took a bite out of his leg when he was seven, Satchmo has been terrified of canines, so he draws up an elaborate plan to avoid Mr. Jerry's new dog. Taking crazy chances and accounting for every contingency, Satchmo is prepared for that dog to hunt him to the edge of the grave...but is his concern warranted in the least?

A trip to Southview Ave. introduces us to Cynthia Sower, whose irrepressible comedic streak prompts the teacher, Mrs. Stevens, to allow her five minutes at the end of class each day to address the other kids. No way Cynthia could stay silent all class long without that release valve at the end, but the kids don't know the family pain behind her endless jokes. When Cynthia's grandfather lost his beloved partner, Miss Fran, his quality of life unraveled, but Cynthia figures if she can keep him laughing, she can keep him alive. Humor is his window to the world, and Cynthia won't leave him without a friendly face to look at on the other side. Gregory Pitts of Rogers St. is aware of his own chronic body odor, but now he's sweet on Sandra White, and wants to rebrand his image. His friends—Remy Vaughn, Joey Santiago, and Candace Greene—are there to help clean him up, so he can make his romantic overture to Sandra confidently. What are friends for, if not to slay your B.O. and moisturize your painfully dry skin for the girl you're crushing on? Our show concludes at the corner of Portal Ave., focusing on Canton Post, son of the school crossing guard. Canton never thought much about his mom directing huge buses and distracted kids where to go, until her accident. Ms. Post suffered a broken shoulder and minor injuries, but all Canton's trauma was emotional. Having her go back out in traffic on a daily basis is torture for Canton until a sympathetic school faculty member suggests a simple way to ease his anxiety. Deep down, Canton knows the accident was a fluke; his mom is plenty safe being a crossing guard. But he's a lot calmer seeing that for himself every afternoon.

Jason Reynolds's writing is relaxed and refreshing, and I love the concept of Look Both Ways. If the stories had more emotional or philosophical depth, this could be a phenomenal novel, but as it is I'm not even certain I'd rate it two and a half stars. The best story is Cynthia and her grandfather, a pair of kindred souls keeping their spirits up by embracing the silliness and sophistication of comedy. Laughing your way through tragedy can avert the darkest of days. I like Look Both Ways better than Jason Reynolds's 2018 Newbery Honor book, Long Way Down, and the material is more kid-friendly. This is a decent choice for introducing young readers to the author's body of work.
Profile Image for orangerful.
947 reviews47 followers
February 21, 2020
My first Jason Reynolds book! I really enjoyed this collection of stories about all the different kinds of kids in a single neighborhood, their different paths and ways of dealing with life. Laugh out loud moments, Kleenex moments, and stories of strong friendships.

Highlights all the ups and downs of being a kid.
Profile Image for Robin Stevens.
Author 49 books2,059 followers
December 20, 2019
A funny, gross, heartbreaking, heartwarming, clever and twisty short story collection from an absolute master of children's writing. (8+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. If you use it in any marketing material, online or anywhere on a published book without asking permission from me first, I will ask you to remove that use immediately. Thank you!*
Profile Image for Frank-Intergalactic Bookdragon.
528 reviews205 followers
June 5, 2020
A nice, easy read that lightly touches on deeper topics such as bullying and grief. Some of the stories individually would get five stars from me and I might change my rating if I feel it, this is one of the best middle grade books I've read! Would recommend if you want something light but not mindless and to middle graders.
Profile Image for RuchReads.
53 reviews
September 23, 2021
I'm a little disappointed....but, I don't know what it was exactly that I expected from the book.....
Full marks to the author for his flight of imagination, subtle messages and tying the stories together neatly with the twine of Latimer Middle School!
My favourite were the Ookabooka Land, Five Things Easier to Do than Simeon and Kenzi's secret handshake and The Broom Dog❤️
The anecdotes are fun, now and relatable...but missing that little zip which would have crossed this read from okay to fab!
Profile Image for We Are All Mad Here.
485 reviews36 followers
June 24, 2021
I have always loved MG books though I think I have grown a little more judgy of them now that I'm a million years old. I probably enjoyed a lot more of them when I was an actual middle-grade child than as an adult. I still had good taste (as did anyone who liked Harriet the Spy better than The Long Secret), but maybe we all become more discriminating with age.

The point being that it's harder these days to find something I love as much as Harriet, or Claudia and Jamie, or anyone in any book by Richard Peck. Look Both Ways comes close. It's such a quick book, I mean it really just gets on with it, and yet it contains fully fleshed-out characters and such entirely vivid situations. With actually surprising surprises.

I loved that characters from one story would walk through another story altogether - just enough, off to the side, not a part of the story at all but still creating a sense of interconnectedness among all ten stories. I have never typed the word 'interconnectedness' before and now I'm wondering if it's real. I loved that it was just a day like any other, and I especially loved the subtlety of the whole thing. If you read this you can feel safe from being beaten over the head with a Profound Message.

I do like a plot, meaning a book-length plot, so I generally have a hard time with short stories such as these. I did not have a hard time here. Would recommend to anyone who would like to know what MG fiction is like in the 21st century.
Profile Image for Melanie Dulaney.
1,323 reviews63 followers
August 5, 2019
Both my library patrons and I really enjoy Jason Reynolds' "Track" series-Ghost, Lu, Sunny, et al and I like "Look Both Ways." My rating is a 4, but that makes it seem like I enjoyed it as much as the aforementioned series and I didn't. Mr. Reynolds' ability to weave diverse characters together using a neighborhood of very different streets and managing to get a bus falling from the sky throughout was impressive. His cast displayed a variety of social, family, and economic situations that felt very authentic to kids everywhere, but in this case, likely a inner-city setting. However, there were a few stand-out chapters, titled after the name of the street that each character lived on, that were not my cup of tea: The very first duo in the book spent an inordinate amount of time talking about boogers and nose wiping on sleeves and while some of my boys might really enjoy reading about nose slime, my stomach roiled. And then he closed out his book with a fabulous vignette about Canton and his fears over possibly losing his mom, but I almost didn't finish it because the chapter droned on a bit too long with metaphors about a school bus. The first 10 or 15 made me think and I appreciated the artistry in the author's use of figurative language, but after a while, I was over it. In between those two chapters, there was real depth in personality and I hope that readers of this book start to think about what it might be like to walk in the shoes of kids like these. Recommended for libraries serving grades 4-7, seeking to add ethnic and economic diversity to their collections, and those with a readership of books by Reynolds, Kwame Alexander, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Christopher Paul Birmingham. Content of "Look Both Ways" was free of profanity, sexual references, and violence.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,249 reviews488 followers
October 5, 2019
Ten stories told in ten blocks. Each story features a different student, but also includes glimpses of the other stories. I wish I had taken some notes with each story as the digital galley did not include a table of contents and navigating around was not easily done. Each story seeks to bring understanding and open a window to walking home in the shoes of another. The characters vary greatly in voice, but tell a story for middle grade. Would recommend having parents/teachers read along with kids on this one as there are many issues touched on including cancer treatment, death, autism, behavior therapy, homosexuality, and economic disparities.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Shaye Miller.
1,236 reviews81 followers
December 2, 2019
This book is a set of ten separate short stories, but the characters are connected — living just blocks from one another and going to the same school (Latimer Middle School). I listened to the audiobook which featured some amazing narrators. While it wasn’t my favorite of Reynold’s books, I did enjoy each story and felt like I really got to know the characters in a brief segment of time.

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!
Profile Image for Kari Yergin.
566 reviews13 followers
August 11, 2020
Best middle grade book I’ve read in a long time! Ten sort of intertwining but separate short stories depicting ten kids walking home after school on the same day, with each chapter named after a different street. The stories are a told with much heart and a surprising bits of humor. Jason Reynolds is CLEARLY a talented author who tackles tough issues with a light hand. The audio was so well done, too.
Profile Image for Srivalli Rekha.
Author 18 books231 followers
September 22, 2021
The book is a collection of ten short stories set in the same region. The kids from each story study in the same school, each with a short backstory of their own. The writing is simple and age-appropriate.
The stories are lighthearted yet deal with serious issues the way most kids do.
Naturally, I liked some a lot more than others, but the collection is a worthy read.
Profile Image for Kerri.
203 reviews6 followers
December 23, 2019
Hmmmm, I was really hoping for a more solid resolution. I thought all these mini stories were going to tie up together in the end and it just kind of ended abruptly.
Profile Image for Katie Fitzgerald.
Author 3 books196 followers
January 16, 2020
In this collection of short stories, Jason Reynolds tells ten tales, each one featuring the after-school life of a student at an urban middle school. The stories explore such common middle school themes as best friendship, first love, family struggles, sexual identity (including two boys kissing), and bullying.

Jason Reynolds is an extremely talented writer, and I gave this book four stars based almost exclusively on the quality of the writing within each story. As in his Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), Reynolds creates a group of completely believable and endearing characters and manages to bring each of them fully to life despite being confined to the length of a short story for each one. I didn't necessarily love all of the subject matter (there is so much dialogue about boogers in the first story that I almost abandoned the book), but I can't deny that Reynolds has a strong talent for voice and character development.

I started out reading a digital ARC of this book, but I took so long to get to it, that the book was published right after I started it, so then I listened to part of the audiobook, which was read by 10 different narrators, including Reynolds himself. This was a great way to get immersed in the world of these kids' school and neighborhood and hearing the way the characters were intended to sound made me enjoy the book that much more. I still would have liked a stronger connection between the individual stories, and some of the topics covered I could have done without, but a better-written middle grade book from 2019 would be difficult to find.

This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom.
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