The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander. February 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544570979. Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 970.
You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?
Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.
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Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Alexander uses sports as a metaphor for life in this earnest gathering of personal reminiscences. “I was tall. I thought I could ball,” he writes. “Turns out, my passion was on a different court.” He’s referring to the tennis court, where he worked his way to excellence after disappointing tries at basketball and football. Still, whatever the game—athletic or otherwise—he offers advice from his experience. Many of these rules are similar in principle: learn from failures, accept and appreciate coaching, always be prepared to take the shot when it comes, and know the rules of play—but “say yes to the possibility of sometimes making up your own.” With its black-and-orange color scheme, the page design intersperses digestible passages of narrative with basketball-themed black-and-white photos and graphics, and pithy advice from high-profile icons of achievement. General life advice, however sound, will never be a slam dunk with teens (ask any parent), but the b-ball motif adds at least some palatability, and the lessons embedded in the author’s own story may prove persuasive.
Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Alexander (The Crossover, rev. 5/14; Booked, rev. 3/16) turns motivational speaker in this volume of short poems, uplifting quotes, and memoir. Though several sports are represented, the collection is organized like a basketball game: four quarters (“1st Quarter: Grit,” “2nd Quarter: Motivation”), each with thirteen rules inspired by James Naismith’s rules for the sport he invented in 1891. Alexander’s personal narrative of his early life in sports weaves its way through the lively display of colorful graphics, black-and-white photographs, poems, and inspirational quotations by famous people (mostly athletes, but also Sonia Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and others). The volume reads like a series of locker-room pep talks by a coach with stories to tell and advice to give (“It takes skill / to make / the last shot. / But it takes confidence / to take it.” “It might look / like a / long shot / but you’ll never /make it / if you don’t / keep shooting”). Definitions of words such as focus, tenacity, and resilience add to the overall uplifting tone. dean schneider
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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