cover image HOOP QUEENS


Charles R. Smith, Jr.. Candlewick, $14.99 (37pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1422-5

This energetic if rather uneven roundup of 12 poems pays tribute to a dozen professional woman basketball players in a rap-like rhythm. Smith (Rimshots) often gives each athlete a nickname that sets the theme of and provides images for the verse. Deeming Ticha Penicheiro "The Chef," for instance, Smith notes, "while feeding and serving/ delicious assists/ with wrist-flick tricks,/ Chef T serves/ dishes with slick/ style and/ skill." Of Teresa Weatherspoon, whom he calls "Hurricane T," the author writes, "Strong gusts of wind/ begin/ when/ cornrow-shaped clouds/ spin/ and form/ as T-Spoon/ steps on court/ to perform,/ swirling/ and stirring/ into a storm." In a few instances, the imagery seems forced and less tied to the game (as in the poem devoted to Natalie Williams, whose tag line is "Working Overtime": "Lunch pail toting/ hardhat wearing/ fierce/ rebounding machine,/ punches clock/ to chase the rock/ and wipe the windows/ clean"). The verses are at their best when they stay simple and streamlined, as with the standout "T 4 2" about Tina Thompson ("T for 2/ 2 points for T,/ toes behind line/ make it a 3"). In all of the spreads, bold graphics in earth-toned colors and geometric patterns behind Smith's large-scale, silhouetted photographs of the players effectively emphasize the fast-paced action of the game. Ages 8-up. (Aug.)