GOOD SPORTS

RHYMES ABOUT RUNNING, JUMPING, THROWING, AND MORE

True to the subtitle, this collection offers a variety of untitled poems that capture kids’ sports thrills of victory and agonies of defeat. A wry understanding of the nature of children’s athletics informs the whole, from the kid who strikes out swinging and the one who observes, “Baseball is fun / But it gives me the blues / To score ninety-four / And still manage to lose,” to the agile inline skater and the pals just tossing a Frisbee for fun, “Though we aren’t good at all.” Both types of activities and successes (or lack thereof) are thrown together in a happy, well-rounded jumble, so the nothin’-but-net free throw is bookended by a gymnast aspiring to make the team, and an avid swimmer. Raschka’s loose watercolors are characteristically full of movement, swift, broad brushstrokes limning kids, balls and even the air in motion. The players swing, leap, balance and throw with happy abandon, in a visually harmonious complement to the poems. Collections of sports poetry are legion in children’s literature, but there’s room on the shelves for this little gem. (Picture book/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 13, 2007

ISBN: 0-375-83700-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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It's a deftly worked resolution, inspirational message and all.

IN THE YEAR OF THE BOAR AND JACKIE ROBINSON

A young Chinese arrival, self-named Shirley Temple Wong, finds a secure, bicultural niche in 1945-46 Brooklyn—as, it's suggested, did Chinese American novelist Lord (Spring Moon).

The opening passages, meant to evoke a traditional Chinese household, have a slightly artificial, storybook quality; but once Lord gets Shirley to the Brooklyn neighborhood of look-alike houses, and into P.S. 8 where not two children look alike, this becomes an endearing, warming account of immigrant woes and joys. Her first afternoon, after Father has shown her around, Shirley insists on going to fetch cigarettes—"Rukee Sike"; she proudly procures them, from a substitute store ("Nothing to it at all"), then loses her way back ("What a fool she was!")—but Father and his guests, finding her, still march her home triumphant. She is put into the fifth grade, not only knowing no English, but actually a year ahead of herself (asked her age, she held up ten fingers—because a Chinese child is one year old at birth); in response to a wink, she takes to blinking (a tic, wonders the teacher); introduced, she bows. And, from her general differentness, she's soon ignored, friendless; a failure, too, as "China's little ambassador" of her mother's imagining. (In a poignant bit, P.S. 8's second "Chinese" student proves to be from Chattanooga, and not to speak Chinese.) The turnaround starts with two black eyes from Mabel, "the tallest and the strongest and the scariest girl in all the fifth grade." Shirley doesn't tattle; Mabel befriends her—picking her for stickball, coaching her; and, from an inadvertent resemblance to Jackie Robinson (" 'Cause she's pigeontoed and stole home"), she develops a passion for the Dodgers and an identification with Robinson ("making a better America," proclaims her teacher) that climaxes when she presents him with the keys to P.S. 8. But in a nice parallel with a Chinese tale, this identification also allows Shirley to wear "two gowns," and to imagine her Chinese relatives clapping along with the P.S. 8 audience.

It's a deftly worked resolution, inspirational message and all.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 1984

ISBN: 978-0-06-440175-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1984

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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