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Strong to the Hoop
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Gr 2-5-In this uniquely designed picture book, 10-year-old James finally gets to play basketball with his older brother's friends and proves he can hold his own. Basketball terminology abounds ("glides down the lane," "flips a finger roll") and should delight children who also yearn for the day when they will have the self-confidence to play with an older crowd. Jean-Bart uses photography and scratchboard drawings to create the collage illustrations; Polaroid transfers made from the collages create the final images of James on the court. The text, set in "Blur Light," gives the appearance of a typewriter font with blue as the main color and red or purple to emphasize certain words and phrases. As unusual and attractive as these photographs are, they are dark. Therefore, this book is best suited for individual readers rather than for group read-alouds.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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