Rebound is the amazing prequel to Alexander's amazing novel The Crossover.
It takes place during one sweltering summer in the late 80s. Charlie (Chuck) Bell has just gotten himself into trouble for being involved with the wrong crowd.
His dad has just died from a heart complications and he's on the edge.
His only escape is comics books, namely The Fantastic Four.
When his mom tells him he's being shipped off to live with his grandparents in Washington, D.C. for summer, he's heartbroken. He's starting to develop feelings for his friend CJ, but now he's going to be taken away from her for the whole summer.
In Washington his Grandfather makes him work to earn his keep. He meets his cousin Roxie, who is an awesome basketball player but Chuck doesn't like basketball, he likes comic books and CJ and candy and he wants his dad back.
When Roxie nearly forces him to start shooting hoop with her, Chuck reluctantly agrees. Slowly but surely, he begins to develop a love for the game.
However, when old friends from his hometown descend upon Washington, Chuck is once again thrown into a world that could land him in deep trouble.
Told in prose, Rebound is another gem from Kwame Alexander. His books are a huge hit at the Glenthorne Library and I know I'm going to need several copies of this book to keep the students satisfied!
Wing has always lived under the radar. Her brother Marcus is always the one in the limelight. He's charming, funny and a high school football star with a promising professional sports career looming on the horizon.
Wing seems resigned to the fact that she's always going to be on the side lines, never quite fitting in and secretly harbouring a crush on Marcus' best friend Aaron.
Then a tragedy strikes the family (I won't spoil it here) and Wing is forced to find something inside of herself that can take her mind off the psychological torment her family is going through.
She finds her strength in running. To everyone's surprise, even her own, she's really, really fast. Wing focuses on running to ease her pain, but it's not enough.
On top of the tragedy, her mother can no longer pay the bills, meaning the bank is threatening to take the home away. Desperate, Wing decides to use her new found running skills to good use: a nationwide competition looking for a spokesperson for a brand of awesome running shoes.
As the clock ticks towards the competition, Wing is unsure if she can handle the pressure surrounding her and her family.
Wing Jones is an emotional glimpse into family tragedy and the guilt that can accompany it. I really enjoyed watching Wing's confidence grow through her running and how it helped her cope with the tragedy and her overall social skills.
I think people need to find something, at least one thing in life that they can latch onto to help them through tough times or just times of insecurity. Wing Jones is about finding that thing and going all in, never giving in and not letting the bastards get you down as they say.
I highly recommend this book for ages 13 and up!
Jennifer and Maisie are best friends. After bonding at the all-female roller derby tryouts, dubbed the Fresh Meat Orientation, they become inseparable.
However, when they are both drafted to different teams and forced to compete against each other and bond with different teammates, their friendship is tested to its limits.
This first in a series of four volumes is a hilarious, honest and interesting look at modern friendships, trust and of course the incredible world of roller derby. I flew through this book in record time, I loved all of the characters, each one has tremendous depth. Slam! is a real punch to the guts, in a good way. I can't wait to get this into the hands of our students, they're going to devour this story. I recommend it to ages 14 and up!
Castle Cranshaw, aka Ghost, has a lot on his mind, mostly anger.
His favourite sport is basketball but a chance encounter on the track field gets the attention of an Olympic medal-winning coach who recruits him for the track team.
Ghost has some real talent that the coach tries to draw out but things keep getting in the way.
Things like Ghost's dark past, his anger issues, his lying and his belief that nobody is willing to truly help him. If he's going to be serious about running and be part of a team, he needs to confront the things that are haunting him first.
Ghost is an amazing book, I think it should be required reading. It taps into the anger and frustration that a lot of young teens face, especially those from broken homes or those who don't have privileged upbringings. However, this is a book for everyone, it's a shot of hope and resilience in the arm. Everyone needs someone like Coach in their life, someone who cuts through red tape with a razor sharp tongue. Someone who doesn't cut you any slack but still deep down cares about you very much. If all of the students I interact with in the library had someone like Coach in their ear, I think they'd be better off for it. Ghost is the next best thing. I cannot wait to get this into the hands of our students this year. I recommend it for ages 10 and up!
When AJ's grandfather dies, his life seems to spiral out of control in a matter of days. AJ's parents are around, but due to their learning disabilities they aren't able to maintain a stable living environment.
AJ's only escape is running. He's aiming to get into the national competition that's coming up. His big problem is that his running shoes don't fit anymore. He's resorted to cutting the toes out so he can squeeze into him. All of his money goes to paying the electric meter at his house.
As the bills pile up, so does AJ's anxiety. He starts lashing out at school and nobody seems to know what the problem is. He's dealing with way too much for an eleven year old but nobody seems to notice. Will he be able to keep his family afloat and make it into the national running competition?
Running on Empty is a really strong novel. It deals with sensitive topics and turns them into a story that everyone can relate to. If you like See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, which was one of my favourites of 2017, then you'll love Running on Empty. I can guarantee this will be a student favourite at the school library I manage. Recommended for ages 10 and up!
Budi has a plan. He wants to be a football star like his hero Kieran Wakefield.
When Budi's a star he won't have to work in the sweatshop anymore. He won't have to be beaten by his foreman when he doesn't work fast enough or makes mistakes. Most of all, he'll be able to pay for his Grandma's medication and move his family into a neighbourhood that isn't crawling with poverty, sickness and addiction.
This is Budi's life, yet he doesn't stop dreaming.
Then one evening when Budi and his friends are in the street playing football, he accidentally kicks the ball into the home of The Dragon, the most dangerous man in Jakarta. The Dragon is angry, and tells Budi to do some dirty work for him. If he refuses, The Dragon will use his influence with the police department and make life even worse for him and his parents.
Caught in an impossible situation, Budi is forced figure out a plan if he's going to protect the ones he loves.
This is a great book, and an important one. I've already written a blog post on it discussing how attractive it is for reluctant and struggling readers which you can read here.
Twelve year old Nick lives for soccer.
Along with his best friend Coby, there's few moves he doesn't know on the pitch.
Off the pitch, now that's a different story. His father's a wordsmith and makes Nick learn new, uncommon words on a regular basis. His mum's a horse fanatic that's tempted by a job in another state.
As troubles at home mount, Nick finds the pressure of success and humiliation by bullies a little too much. Guided by a rapper turned librarian named Mac, Nick tries his best to figure life out before he gets swallowed up by it.
Written in verse, Booked is a follow up to Alexander's award winning novel The Crossover, also written in verse.
I really loved this story and can't wait to get it into the hands of the students at the school I work at. Nick's story could be any of the students' that I speak to on a daily basis and I know they'll connect with it on a deep level.
I recommend Booked to ages 10 and up!
Josh and Jordan
12 year-old twins
Their basketball skills
Would make a church-goer sin
Sound of leather on pine
It's their favourite song
Till Jordan meets a girl
Then it's gone baby gone
Their father's a star
Played professional ball
Their mother's a principal
Watchin' kids in the hall
Nothing but net
Their game can't be beat
Till pop's heart shows signs
Of leavin' the kitchen for the heat
The big game is looming
Second half's a life-changer
You're crazy if you miss
The Crossover by K. Alexander
Let's face it, you always knew roller derby was cool. The speed, the action, the spills, the glorious, glorious puns. What's not to love? Roller Girl makes it even cooler with this sweet graphic novel from Victoria Jamieson.
Twelve year old Astrid's mom has a way of exposing her to art and culture - dragging her to museums, poetry readings and operas. One night, however, she surprises everyone when she takes Astrid and her best friend Nicole to watch roller derby.
Astrid is hooked. Nicole, not so much. When Astrid finds out that there's a roller derby camp being held nearby during the summer, she's even more excited. Astrid assumes Nicole will want to go too, but it turns out she has other plans. Plans that involve ballet camp and boys, not roller skates, helmets and war cries.
Astrid goes on alone, meeting new friends and practicing her heart out for the biggest night of her life - a real roller derby match in front of 500 people.
What I loved about this story was that not only does it involve realistic characteristics of a twelve year old - Astrid can be selfish, pig headed and also makes rash decisions, but that you actually learn about roller derby at the same time. I had no idea so much went into the routines, the hits and even the falls. It's up there with professional wrestling in its showmanship and spectacle.
It's fun read that anyone will enjoy, highly recommend it. Anyone in Years 7 and up will love this book!
I loved Fantasy Sports, I'd never heard of it before in my life and decided to buy it for the library based solely on the cover.
I'm glad I did. It's like Big Trouble in Little China if Kurt Russell had to play a game of basketball to defeat Lo Pan.
Wiz and Mug are an unlikely pair. Wiz is a small, snarky, intelligent wizard with a lot to prove. She's working for Mug, a Zangief-esque brute who thinks with his fists before his head.
As treasure hunters, they're always looking for a good haul. One fateful afternoon they stumble across a tomb containing an ancient puzzle, breaking through it, they enter an ancient arena ruled by a demon with the greatest basketball skills anyone has ever seen.
If Mug and Wiz are going to leave the arena with their skin still attached to their bones, they're gonna have to beat the demon in the greatest basketball rivalry since the 1984 Lakers & Celtics.
This book's the most fun you'll have in the library all day long, I can't wait to get it into the hands of the students.
I'd recommend it for Years 8 and up.