cover image On the Ball

On the Ball

Brian Pinkney. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4847-2329-6

Working with loose brushstrokes and swirls that mimic his hero’s movements, Pinkney (Martin & Mahalia) presents a portrait of a boy who learns that physical grace comes from a mysterious place inside him. Owen struggles to keep up on the soccer field, and one day, as he sits glumly on the bench recovering from a spill, the ball rolls downhill and bounces away. “It was up to Owen to chase it down and bring it back.” The ball tumbles into a swiftly flowing stream, and Owen follows. He’s rolled and buffeted by the rapids, but something about this new adventure frees him from his sullen complacency. Now he imagines himself a tiger and pounces after the ball. When the ball flies off a cliff, Owen sprouts wings that let him fly. Finally, he carries the ball back to the field with new pride. Pinkney’s strokes create force across every page, conveying the idea that the body in motion offers pleasure for its own sake. The promotion of exercise often depends on false cheer or blandishments; Pinkney shows it as a simple joy. Ages 3–5. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)