cover image Tall Tales

Tall Tales

Charles R. Smith, Jr.. Dutton Books, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46172-2

In this disappointing successor to his inventive debut, Rimshots, writer/photographer Smith imagines six outlandish stories of basketball feats. Unlike his previous volume, the flashy type and design here distract from the text and the photographs rather than augment them. In ""Must Be the Shoes,"" for example, in which a girl gains the ability to shoot amazing hoops because of glowing white sneakers that magically appear in her closet, blocky chunks of text in various tinted hues divvy up the narrative, in which even the punctuation marks (dashes, quotation marks, etc.) appear in different colors. On the other hand, a story about a basketball whiz kid, ""The Main Event,"" has the appearance of a newspaper article except for the eponymous player's name--which is printed in magenta every time it appears. Many of the photos look similar, and few demonstrate the interesting perspectives that the book's cover would seem to foreshadow. The tales themselves are disappointing: the punch lines of at least two imply that it's surprising when a girl can outplay her male teammates and opponents. Like Rimshots, the book's best moments magnify realistic on-court experiences, such as in ""Walk Softly"" when an extraordinarily gifted player who happens to be blind describes what he loves about the game (""The sound of the ball being caressed by the nylon cords is so beautiful that it speaks louder than I ever could""). Fans of Smith's earlier book will hope he returns to more moments such as these for his next volume. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)