Gr 6 Up--In this prequel/companion to the acclaimed The Crossover, readers meet a young Charlie Bell, father of the twins from the first book. It's 1988, and Charlie just lost his dad to a heart attack. Suppressing his grief and alienating himself from his concerned mother, Charlie gets in trouble, which results in him spending the summer with his paternal grandparents. Granddaddy is a no-nonsense, jazz-loving man, who quickly puts "Chuck" in his place and demands that the sullen teenager help out around the house and spend time with his cousin Roxie shooting hoops. Not a natural baller, Chuck gets schooled by Roxie and slowly improves his game. With firm but loving support from his family and friends, he learns to refocus and get in touch with his emotions. In a high-stakes tournament, Roxie and Chuck learn that "it's okay/to be down/and upset/as long as/you're not down/and out." As in his previous novels in verse, Alexander shows off his expert command of the format, employing staccato breaks with smooth rhymes that mimic the bounce and flow of the sport. Interspersed are several comic panels illustrated by Anyabwile, which serve as fantastical imaginings--Chuck Bell dominating on the court like a superhero from his favorite comic books. As Chuck works his way through deep grief and deals with the consequences of some bad decisions, his voice is always fresh and compelling; Alexander's poetry is buoyant and optimistic. VERDICT Fans of The Crossover will delight in learning the origin tale of Josh and JB's dad, while new readers can comfortably jump right into the game.--Kiera Parrott, School Library JournalCopyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
This prequel to Alexander's Newbery Medal winner, The Crossover (2014), provides the backstory of twins Josh and Jordan Bell's father, Chuck "Da Man" Bell, a basketball star who died young. Set in 1988, the novel-in-verse follows Chuck, who is acting out as he mourns the premature death of his own father. His mother's solution is to send him to spend the summer at his paternal grandparents' home, where he endures his grandfather's tough love and his cousin Roxie's superior skills as a baller. Alexander's non-rhyming poetry has propulsive, hard-hitting rhythm. A few poems are cast in graphic novel-style panels, which serve as nice breaks among the poems and illustrate how Chuck, a comic book lover, imagines himself. Adults may get more of a kick out of the references to 1980s pop culture (Members Only jackets, Now and Later candy) than the target audience, but the multilayered coming-of-age story should resonate with young readers. While this companion novel works as a standalone, those who have read the first book will have a richer experience. Ages 10-12. Agent: Arielle Eckstut, Levine, Greenberg, Rostan Literary Agency. (Apr.)Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.