A finalist for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, the book comprises 10 stories linked not only by time and place but by occasional characters and details. For example, the two best buddies in the first story, “Water Booger Bears,” make a brief, frantic announcement in the final tale, “The Broom Dog,” and the crossing guard Ms. Post appears in a number of stories. A rosebush noted as damaged in one story surfaces at a key moment in another. The tone ranges from the funny, endearing “How a Boy Can Become a Grease Fire,” about a kid being prepped to talk to his crush, to the heart-rending “Skitter Hitter,” with a girl bullied because of her skateboarding skills. Early adolescent concerns — friendship, family, anxiety, sexual identity — emerge through two taunted gamers in “Call of Duty” and the vividly rendered, edgy foursome bonded by cancer in “The Low Cuts Strike Again.”
Reynolds connects his characters to their community — a living world larger than them — in playful, often profound ways. The middle schoolers reflect on a little girl swinging, with “happiness for a face,” a pigeon the color of “clouds before rain,” a dog licking a lonely man’s face — and the elemental nature of boogers.
Mary Quattlebaum teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, in the MFA program in writing for children and young adults. She is also author of such books as “Pirate vs. Pirate” and regularly reviews books for young readers for The Post.
LOOK BOTH WAYS
A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
By Jason Reynolds
Atheneum. 188 pp. $17.99