A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds (Long Way Down, As Brave as You), is a set of 10 interconnected short stories set in the context of kids walking home from school. It doesn't follow a conventional structure with a beginning, middle, and end. Each story can stand alone; together they add up to a bigger picture. This book, which was named a 2020 Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor Book, could be a good match for readers who get impatient with long chapter books, and also for advanced readers who can appreciate the literary qualities. There are many potentially distressing descriptions of bullying. A group of kids whose families have lost financial footing due to a parent's cancer form an entrepreneurial "gang" to steal change. One girl is grieving the death of her older sister.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
LOOK BOTH WAYS is a set of short stories that add up to a portrait of the lives of a group of Black middle school children. Each chapter tells the story of an individual or ensemble on a particular block. And what a cast: a girl skateboarding whiz who's lost her older sister (who was also a skateboarding whiz); a group of kids who wear buzz cuts in solidarity with their parents in cancer treatment; and a boy whose friends help him grapple with the new stink of puberty. The story moves by peeling back the layers of these fascinating characters as they go about the mundane events of their lives.
Is it any good?
This poignant book captures the roller-coaster of emotions that go along with middle school life: humor, sadness, and fear all mixed up. Look Both Ways author Jason Reynolds is a gifted poet and novelist, a National Book Award finalist whose other awards include the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, the John Newbery Medal, and the NAACP Image Award, to name just a few. Though this book is a work of prose, it works like poetry; every word and sentence is so densely packed that the meaning comes to life from images without a lot of action or plot.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bullying in Look Both Ways. Does it seem realistic to you? How can someone who's been bullied almost start bullying others himself?
The kids in Look Both Ways are all coping with events in the world that are beyond their control: sick parents, changes in their bodies, a dog that might bite. What character strengths do kids use to handle their troubles?
In every chapter, the author weaves in the image of a school bus falling from the sky. Which one was your favorite?
- Author: Jason Reynolds
- Illustrator: Alexander Nabaum
- Genre: Literary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: October 6, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors
- Last updated: August 13, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love family stories and friendship tales
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.