cover image Hoops


Robert Burleigh. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201450-6

Anyone who has played basketball on a hot city playground or followed it courtside will respond to the sensuous, tactile tone of this poetic description of the game. Burleigh (Flight) announces the theme and pace in the first three lines: ""Hoops./ The game./ Feel it."" If there is a crowd of spectators, they make no sound; instead the words focus on how the game feels to a player who senses ""the rough roundness./ The ball/ like a piece/ of the thin long reach/ of your body."" The ball handler feints and experiences ""the sideways slip/ through a moment of narrow space."" Johnson's (Alphabet City) marvelous pastel drawings of teenagers on the court paired with the book's design turn up the heat. White text on angular black spaces juts in from the edge of each spread, as a full-bleed illustration of a player attempting to steal the ball opposes a close-up framed in a wide purple border of an arm ""shooting up/ through a thicket of arms."" The drawings create a loose storyline for the staccato text, following a dribbler, then shifting to his guard. An ode to the game for older children, veteran players and NBA fans, this book will give language to teenagers' experience both on and off the court. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)