cover image Strong to the Hoop

Strong to the Hoop

John Coy. Lee & Low Books, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-880000-80-9

This eye-catching picture book blends photography and scratchboard drawings in a series of arresting mixed media collages. Coy's (Night Driving) tale describes a dream come true for James, a 10-year-old tagalong who finally gets to play a game of four-on-four with the older boys. Staccato bursts of dialogue and description (""I zoom down the court, ferocious like a lion"") emulate the stop-start rhythm of the game as the Shirts and Skins face off. Up against Marcus, whose ""muscles push out his shirt,"" James is off to a rocky start, but he proves he can hang tough, coming through to sink the winning game point shot. Despite a few awkward transitions in the text (e.g., James snaps out of a reverie about playing as an All-Star so abruptly that readers may initially miss why he's been pulled into the game), the kinetic mood is contagious. First-time picture book artist Jean-Bart's innovative use of collage highlights the central action of each illustration; for instance, a photograph in sepia tones with the barest touch of color (for the basketball or the boys' shorts) creates a spotlight on James and Marcus, while black-and-white scratchboard fills in the backdrop. The artist fuses realism with a darkly atmospheric mood to give the compositions an authentically gritty urban feel. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)