In his follow up to the Newbery-Award-winning The Crossover, Alexander once again blends sports and poetry. Nick loves soccer and is really good at it too. Nick and his best friend are on opposing teams in an upcoming soccer cup and Nick is also getting ready to ask out April, a girl he can’t stop thinking about. Everything is going well except for his father who insists that Nick read the dictionary of large words that he personally created. That’s when Nick finds out that his mother is moving away for a job working with horses, leaving Nick with his father, not a great combination. Nick will have to rely on soccer and his best friend to get him through this rough patch. Because there is more tough road to come.
Alexander is quite simply amazing. He writes verse that is both poetic and beautiful but also accessible and welcoming to young teens who may be far more interested in kicking a ball than reading a book, especially a book of poetry. Alexander also demonstrates throughout the book the power of words both in his poetry itself and through the story line, where Nick is clearly smart and uses words from his father’s collection without even thinking about it. Nicely, definitions are provided in footnotes.
Nick is a protagonist who is easy to relate to. He has several things on his mind: soccer, girls and gaming. It is life though that pulls him outside of those interests and broadens his scope. His father does this in a clumsy way, forcing Nick to learn words. A school librarian also helps, getting books that Nick will clearly love directly into his hands. So as much as this is a book about a smart young teen boy, it is also a book about the power of having adults who care in your life.
A worthy follow-up to his first verse novel, this book is just as beautifully written. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from library copy.