Look Both Ways
The spirited young characters in Jason Reynolds’ brilliant new short story collection, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, are middle school classmates at the same inner-city school. The book’s ten stories deal primarily with the children’s adventures on their way home from school each day, each story representing a different student or group of students and a different street in the neighborhood around the school. While the stories and characters rarely overlap, Reynolds’ book represents a fascinating recreation of the entire neighborhood and the courage, imagination, humanity, and humor that the children display in dealing with both the serious difficulties and more routine concerns that they face each day. In one of the book’s earlier chapters, we meet the Low Cuts, a rowdy street gang whose members close crop their hair to show solidarity with their parents, all of whom are cancer survivors. We also meet Fatima, an obsessive young girl who keeps a detailed check list of her day-to-day experiences, along with her friend Benni, an eccentric street singer who “stays the same by changing every single day.” Other characters include Pia Foster, a shy, soft-spoken girl who can only express herself while riding on her skateboard; Cynthia “Say-So” Sower, a class clown who spends her spare time making up silly jokes with her grandfather; and Satchmo Jenkins, who devises an elaborate master plan to avoid being bitten by his neighbor’s new dog. A gifted stylist, Reynolds combines a level of insight and inventiveness normally reserved for serious adult fiction with colorful characters, vivid descriptions, and sparkling dialogue that will captivate both young readers and their parents.
David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.