Strong to the Hoop
by Coy, John; Jean-Bart, Leslie (ILT)

Ten-year-old James tries to hold his own and prove himself on the basketball court when the older boys finally ask him to join them in a game

Gr. 2^-5, younger for reading aloud. Playground basketball is always about a rite of passage: proving yourself able to play at the next level. It's a metaphor for life in the larger world, of course, but it's also an intense, image-rich world of its own. Author Coy and illustrator Leslie Jean-Bart capture that intensity in this well-realized picture book for older readers. The story is a simple one: James is only 10, not yet big enough to play on the main court with his brother and the other neighborhood kids. Then one of the kids hurts his ankle, and James is drafted. Coy's text moves with all the freewheeling speed of playground ball, and the first-person narration captures James' fear as well as his determination. Best of all, though, are Jean-Bart's collage-style illustrations, produced by combining Polaroid photographs and scratchboard drawings. The result melds the realism of the players' photos with the flat but evocative symbolism of the scratchboard settings (as if three-dimensional figures appeared on cave paintings). Real-life kids competing on a mythic playing field-that's the message here, but you don't need to understand it in those terms to feel its allure. ((Reviewed December 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

James, ten, makes the most of a sudden chance to run with the big boys in this hard-fought game of playground basketball. Stepping onto the main court and told to guard Marcus, a head taller and hard as a rock, James looks bad at first; his uncertainty fades as he gets into the rhythm of the game, and at last it's his shot that makes the winning point. Coy (Night Driving, 1996) tells the tale in unslangy prose, with brief bursts of dialogue and short, precise descriptions. The text is printed in a typeface aptly named ``Blur Light,'' with chosen words in different sizes and colors. It's an engrossing, if overdesigned, debut for Jean-Bart; the full-color photograph-and-scratchboard collage illustrations, whose roughly inked edges give them an unfinished look, interpret the action literally, in a far more successful evocation of the game's look and feel than that found in Charles R. Smith's Rimshots (1999). In the end, James slaps Marcus's hand, then proudly turns to face the next quartet of challengers. Cleanly compelling. (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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