Gr 6-10--Twelve-year-old Nick loves soccer, and he and his best friend Coby have big plans for winning the Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup, the renowned world youth soccer tournament, even though they will be playing on opposing teams. Besides the big game, Nick has a lot of other things on his mind. For one thing, his mother wants to move away to pursue her dream of training race horses, and his linguistics professor father is pressuring him to improve his vocabulary by reading the dictionary. Throw in the twin eighth-grade tyrants who relentlessly want to pound him and weekly lessons at Miss Quattlebaum's School of Ballroom Dance & Etiquette, and his life at Langston Hughes Magnet School of the Arts is pretty hectic. But school is also where "the Mac" can be found, Langston's resident rapping, dragonfly-loving, red mohawk-wearing librarian and Nick's favorite adult. And then there's April, Nick's current crush. Newbery-winning poet Alexander once again brings to life a novel in verse that equally captures the rapid-fire excitement of a soccer match and the palpable pain of a young boy whose family is falling apart. Peppered throughout are useful and amusing vocabulary words as well as wise-cracking yet sage life lessons from a beloved librarian. Authentic characters and amusing situations abound, making this story one that will be welcomed by readers of all levels. VERDICT Another winning goal for Alexander and middle school readers alike.--Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OHCopyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Alexander scores again with this sports-themed verse novel, a companion to his Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover. Eighth grader Nick, a devoted soccer player and fan, enjoys some friendly competition with his best friend, Coby. What Nick doesn't like is words--neither the ones in the dictionary that his linguistics professor father wrote (and is making him read) nor the ones he learns in his honors English class. But the school's quirky rapping librarian, Mr. Mac, helps Nick discover both a love of reading and a way to connect with the girl of his dreams. Alexander skillfully juggles verse styles to realistically capture Nick's humor and smarts (showcased in witty footnoted definitions of words like "cachinnate" and "mewling"), passion for soccer, and vulnerability when being bullied, having surgery, or facing his parents' troubled marriage. Emotionally resonant and with a pace like a player on a breakaway, Nick's story will have readers agreeing: "The poems/ were cool./ The best ones were/ like bombs, / and when all the right words/ came together/ it was like an explosion./ So good, I/ didn't want it to end." Ages 10-12. Agent: Arielle Eckstut, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. (Apr.)Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.