Readers are better off leaving this muddled fantasy aside.


From the Wizenard series , Vol. 2

This season isn’t starting well for the West Bottom Badgers, and it’s especially hard for one of the players.

Reggie is stuck on the bench. His basketball game is not improving, and he can’t see how he will ever make it to actually play as a true team member. Even though it was years ago, the loss of his parents weighs him down, as he believes they were murdered by the tyrannical President Talin. His parents left behind a mysterious box with a cryptic note inside along with a book full of metaphysical writing that he thinks must hold the secrets of grana—magic. This book picks up from the magical adventures Reggie’s basketball team experienced at an unusual basketball camp led by coach Rolabi Wizenard in the first installment, Training Camp (2019). While Reggie struggles to understand grana, Reggie’s grandmother and younger sister urge him to move on from his grief. Though things get worse before they get better for him on the court, Reggie’s teammates believe he is more than just a benchwarmer. Even as he struggles, the evident, ever present backstory of the larger world events looms vaguely over this slow-paced, oftentimes confusing story. If the plot is often unclear, the emphasis on the values of persistence and discipline is not, points hammered home in each chapter epigraph. Reggie is black, and his teammates are mostly kids of color.

Readers are better off leaving this muddled fantasy aside. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-14-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.


In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A satisfying, winning read.

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Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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