cover image Staying Cool

Staying Cool

Nancy Antle. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1876-0

Every day after school, Curtis goes to the boarded-up grocery store where his grandpa has set up a boxing gym. First he does his homework, then he works out. He's hoping to compete in the Golden Gloves, an amateur tournament, but the last time Curtis sparred with a buddy he lost his temper. Now he has to prove to his grandpa that he can ""stay cool."" Determination pays off, and at last Grandpa gives Curtis the thumbs-up to compete. More than a run-of-the-mill ""boy wins prize"" story, this tale ends before the competition, emphasizing such values as hard work, pride and accomplishment. Each time Curtis speaks of winning, Grandpa reminds him it's one step at a time. Antle (Sam's Wild West Show) deftly conveys the intense level of activity at the gym, from the ""whap whap whap"" of jump ropes to the ""bumpitybumpitybumpity"" of the speed bag, while at the same time lovingly evoking the bond between grandfather and grandson. Lewis (Big Boy) renders the central activity described on each page in animated watercolors, and adds depth by allowing the background figures to recede into shadow. His faces are full of character, and he's captured the look and feel of a busy boxing gym. This is a book that works well on many levels, and offers young audiences a peek at a rarely visited world. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)