THROWING SMOKE

The cerebral Brooks (Vanishing, 1999, etc.) puts a characteristic spin on this Matt Christopher–style tale of a ragtag Little League team that gets some unexpected help. Coming off a 0-10 debut season, the Breadhurst Newts face a new spring still eager to play, even though, as infielder “E6” Marchant puts it, “up the middle we have severe limitations, and down the lines we are inconsistent but mostly pretty weak.” Having found that working alone in a local print shop eases his frustration, pitcher Whiz Cary absent-mindedly prints up a baseball card one night describing awesome made-up fireballer “Ace Jones”—who appears on the mound in the flesh at the next practice. Whiz tries it again, creating cards for power-hitting outfielder “Diane Fuller,” then infield wizards “Max and Marty Rico.” Suddenly enhanced, the Newts begin not only taking leads but also actually winning. It's far from a dream team, though, as the new players barely notice the original ones, and stroll arrogantly off the field together after each game. Whiz and his buddies discover that victory doesn't have quite the expected savor. In the end, he sends the “Gang of Four” back where it came from (wherever that is—Brooks doesn’t offer a suggestion), leaving readers to ponder the difference between winning at any cost and taking pleasure just in playing the game. Pushy parents and coaches might find food for thought here, too. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028972-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.

REBOUND

In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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