Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Book Review: "Look Both Ways" by Jason Reynolds

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.

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