2021 Carnegie Medal Winner Speech

Jason Reynolds, June 2021

Thank you so much to the Carnegie Committee for nominating Look Both Ways

I am humbled, I am honoured and I am grateful.

I also want to thank really quickly the wonderful Knights Of who publishes me, who it is a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous experience to be working with them, with people who actually are walking the walk. Just know I will continue to root for you, I would continue to ride for you, through the fire, thank you so so much.

You know it’s interesting, people talk about Look Both Ways as if it is just a collection of stories about a whole bunch of kids coming home from school…and it is…but it’s also a few other things.

Number one, it is an examination of the autonomy of children. And what that means is that basically I wanted to explore who it is that children are when the watchful eye of adults aren’t around.

With as many books as I’ve read, and as many books that all of you have read, you realise that so often, children’s literature takes place either at school or at home but there’s a liminal space, there’s an in between that I wanted to explore and that is the journey home, that 15 or 20 minute walk that a young person has to go on as they journey through their communities to get to their home base.

Number two, I wanted to show and to sort of pick at how, though we all exist in one space, how we all are pretty much the same when you get down to the brass tacks of it, we all have completely different journeys. And those journeys influence and impact who it is that we are when we show up the following day.

For all the teachers out there listening, just know that your young people have different journeys home; even though they all sit in the classroom together, when that bell rings they go separate ways. And they have to go through separate things. I am not talking about what happens at home I’m speaking about specifically the journey to get there. That in and of itself changes who you are, it changes how you show up in the world, so we have to remember that when we may have a young person who might be a little more inconvenient to love. Ask yourself about their journey because I am willing to guarantee that it is far different than your own.

And lastly,  is actually the inverse of that point, it is the idea that even though we all have separate journeys, our lives organically bump up against one another. That’s the miracle of life. It’s the idea that if we were to trust this process, believe in the power of humanity and speak to one another, no matter who you are or where you are from, all over the world there is a good chance that if we speak to each other long enough, we will probably have someone in common and that’s important, because it’s really difficult to hate someone when the two of you love the same person.

That’s what this book is really about, right, those three things. It’s an examination of autonomy, it’s this idea that every child has a different journey and it’s all about the fact that despite those journeys we are all interconnected. One people. One race. Having similar experiences and yet different experience altogether.

This book contains a lot but most importantly it’s just a fun story. I’m not interested in teaching anything, I’m only interested in bearing witness to the young people’s lives. And as long as young people continue to allow me to do so, I will continue to do so.

Thank you to the Carnegie committee, I will continue to do this work and I hope that you all will continue to recognise it. I appreciate you. All the love in the world from the US and I hope to see y’all soon. Peace.