01
May
18

“I want to be the hero in my story.” CBR10 Review 20.

UnknownLast year, when I started my new job, one of the first books I was given to read was Kwame Alexander’s Booked. I read and devoured it in a day. And then tracked down The Crossover, and loved that one, as well. Rebound is a prequel to The Crossover — it tells the story of Chuck Bell, the father of Jordan and Josh Bell, the twin basketball stars who tell their story in prose in The Crossover. Chuck’s claim to fame was that he played in the NBA for a hot minute, and is a bit of a neighborhood hero.

SPOILERS FOR THE CROSSOVER

Heartbreakingly, Chuck dies in The Crossover. He has a congenital heart problem and ignores all of the signs of heart disease. His father dropped dead when he was a kid, and Chuck lives in fear that the same might happen to him. And it does.

Rebound takes place in 1988, just months after 12 year old Chuck’s (now known as Charlie) father has passed away. To put it simply, Charlie cannot deal. He breaks out into a cold sweat whenever he hears sirens, reminding him of the ambulance that took his father to the hospital. He can’t communicate with his mother, who is hurting just as badly as he is. She’s busting her butt working to keep the income coming in, and he can’t understand why she won’t buy him Air Jordans instead of ZIPS.*** His two best friends, Skinny and CJ, want to help him, but don’t know how. Charlie doesn’t know how to ask for help, and when he starts getting in trouble, his mother sends I’m away to his grandparents for the summer.

When Charlie gets to DC for the summer, he finds that his grandparents expect much of him. He has to do work around the house. He has to go for long walks with his grandfather. He has to say “sir” and “ma’am”. And he has to watch his cousin Roxie play basketball every day. Charlie hates basketball. He’d much rather stay home and read comics or go to the arcade and play Pac Man.

Of course, living with his grandparents and hanging out with Roxie is incredibly therapeutic for Charlie (now warming to the nickname Chuck). He starts playing ball with Roxie all day, every day. He discovers that he’s almost pretty good.

Losing a parent is the worst thing a kid can go through, and Kwame Alexander handles it with grace and respect. AND, he does it all in gorgeous, age-appropriate prose.

Sometimes, I wish

I were a superhero
so I could fight back
against all the
doom
and the gloom
that’s trying
to destroy
me.

I wish I could torch
all the trouble
in our world
like Johnny Storm.

I wish I could
thrash
the heartache
like Ben Grimm.

I wish I could
make the sorrow
that’s in my life
invisible
like Sue Storm.

And I wish
I could stretch
my arms
like Reed Richards
all the way
to heaven
and hug my father
one more time.

Just. One. More. Time

Kwame Alexander is an amazingly original voice in Children’s Literature today. The prose doesn’t seem like poetry — it tells a story that most kids can relate to in some way. I never expected to like these books so much. I never expected for all of them to make me cry.

***Personal memory time. When I was a kid, my dad was in advertising and public relations, and my brother and I were in a bunch of commercials. Including this ridiculous one for Zips sneakers. Poor Chuck, trying to be a baller in these.

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