Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can’t nobody stop you/
can’t nobody cop you…
In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!
Sequel to: The Crossover
Potentially Sensitive Areas: None
Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2016)
Eighth grader Nick Hall is quite a wordsmith, thanks largely to his father, a linguistics professor and the author of Weird and Wonderful Words, which Nick is required to read page by page: “You’re the only kid / on your block / at school / in THE. ENTIRE. FREAKIN’. WORLD. / who lives in a prison / of words. He calls it the pursuit of excellence. / You call it Shawshank.” Nick would rather be shining on the soccer field with his best friend Coby Lee, trying to talk to April Farrow, or playing Ping-Pong with his cool mom. Nick is blindsided when his parents suddenly separate and Mom moves away, leaving him to live alone with his stern dad. Then things worsen at school, too, as he and Coby (whose dad is from Singapore and mom is from Ghana) are targeted by the racist Eggleston twins (“pit-bull mean / eighth grade tyrants / with beards”). Like Alexander’s slam-dunk Newbery Medal winner, The Crossover (rev. 5/14), this novel in verse offers sports action combined with spot-on portrayals of middle-school life; warm, believable family and friend dynamics; and hip, down-to-earth adult secondary characters, such as The Mac, an eccentric rap-producer-turned-cool-librarian who supports Nick through his many trials. Alexander understands reluctant readers deeply, and here hands them a protagonist who is himself a smart, reading-averse kid who just wants to enjoy the words that interest him on his own terms. With accessible poetic forms and engaging formatting, Booked’s pages will be turned swiftly and enthusiastically. Katrina Hedeen
Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2016)
Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class. Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer–and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable. A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)
About the Author
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.
Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.
His website is www.kwamealexander.com.
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