Building on the great success of his Newbery-winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander provides advice and life lessons to young readers, drawn mostly from the world of sports and organized by a schema of “rules.”
Instead of chapters, the work begins with a preface called “Warm-up: The Rules” and is then divided into the four quarters of a game, each having a theme: “grit,” “motivation,” “focus,” and “teamwork and resilience.” “Passion” is included as a half-time consideration, and there is an “overtime” look at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There are brief profiles of athletes Wilma Rudolph, LeBron James, Pelé, and Venus and Serena Williams, along with maxims and personal anecdotes from both male and female sports figures who’ve excelled in different arenas as well as a few nonathletes, including Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Sonya Sotomayor, and Nelson Mandela. Throughout there is poetry, verses that remind us why Alexander connects with readers. “Rule #45 / A loss is inevitable / like rain in spring. / True champions / learn / to dance / through / the storm.” The advice never feels heavy-handed, and the author's voice shines through. The design is as much a part of the book as its lively text, set in varying font sizes and colors (black, white, or orange), differing layouts, and judicious use of photographs and illustrations.
This will appeal to fans of Alexander’s previous middle-grade novels as well as young sports fans. (Nonfiction. 10-12)