When a School Bus Falls From the Sky

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Publication Date: October 8, 2019

Summary from Goodreads:

A novel told in ten blocks, showing all they 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 weaves them into a look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life. 

I often have trouble selling a collection of short stories to kids, but I think this one will be different. I like how all of the stories were connected in subtle ways. They were all realistic in their emotions and their acknowledgement of what it means to be a kid. Each story is unique and deals with many things, friendships, bullies, first crushes, found families and family hardships. All woven together to cover a walk home from school on any given day.

All of the kids in these stories go to the same school. Some know each other well, others are just acquaintances. But all of them have hopes and dreams and this comes through even through such short little tales.

As much as I would like to talk about all of the stories I decided to just talk about a couple of my favorites.

The Low Cuts Strike Again

The Low Cuts are a group of kids who were initially brought together through a support group. All of their parents had cancer. That is something that bonds even the least likely kids. This is a story that makes you melt at the end, even after thinking the kids were maybe not the best sort of kids to hang around with. They spend the walk home coming up with a way to earn some money by conning others. But the money they earn is well spent and you end up appreciating how the four kids support each other and love each other.

Ookabooka Land

This one just really tugged at my heartstrings, while making me laugh too. Cynthia is a funny kid, the class clown, always ready with a joke. But she is a bit of a loner too. At home she struggles with watching her beloved grandfather struggle with dementia. But their bond is sealed with jokes and it is so wonderful to see.

The Broom Dog

This is the last story and explains the motif of the school bus falling from the sky that shows up through out the stories. It is the story of Canton and his anxiety and fears about his mother being hurt again. She is the crossing guard that many of the kids in the story greet on their walks home. She was hit by a bus a year ago, and Canton is still coping with the fear of losing her. It is a beautifully written story about coping and letting go of your fears and a perfect ending for the book.

This book has received many justly earned awards. It is beautifully written but still maintains it’s realistic dialogue and will appeal to many kids.

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