Josh and Jordan Bell are middle-school-aged twins who are both basketball proteges. The boys make an unstoppable team on court and are leading their school in a undefeated season. The twins have always been close, until a new girl moves into town. Jordan's growing relationship with the new girl forces a wedge between the brothers. At the same time both boys worry about their father who used to be a pro ball player, but now suffers from health problems. When Josh's hurt feelings lead him to make a bad choice, more than the basketball championship is at risk.
This book won both the Newbery and the Coretta Scott King honor award this year. I always try to guess the winner each year, but this one came out of the blue. I thought for sure Rain Reign would win because it was the first book to deal well with autism. I am so glad this one won instead. This book is a gift to teachers, librarians and reluctant readers. The book is written in free verse, but much of it is basically written in rap and it is really well done. Imagine what we used to call a "jock" (do they use that term anymore? Am I dating myself?) who is assigned to read a Newbery winner. The poor kid has never read a full length novel in his life, but pours over copied of Sports Illustrated. The kid rolls his eyes and sighs, but the librarian says, "I have the book for you." So the kid gets the book, looks at the cover, and shrugs. His mood changes from "oh no" to "ok" and he starts to read. Soon he is talking about the book to other kids on the team and showing them parts. It is brilliant! Kwame not only wrote a book that will reach a whole new demographic, he helped me look at the "rap" culture differently. Ok, there is a lot of trashy rap out there, but reading this book helped me see for the first time why the kind of rap that is boastful could appeal to a ghetto culture. So much is against a kid growing up on the streets, but boasting rap gives them a chance to do positive self talk that is cool. The rhythm and the clever word choice makes it cool.
I guess I have been gushing. It was a well written book, (and a good audio recording if you want to listen to it) and I am glad it won the Newbery. (237 p)