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In this middle grade novel-in-verse by the Newbery Medal-winning and Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning author of "The Crossover," soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.

In this middle grade novel-in-verse by the Newbery Medal-winning and Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning author of "The Crossover," soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 7, 2016
    Alexander scores again with this sports-themed verse novel, a companion to his Newbery Medal–winning The Crossover. Eighth grader Nick, a devoted soccer player and fan, enjoys some friendly competition with his best friend, Coby. What Nick doesn't like is words—neither the ones in the dictionary that his linguistics professor father wrote (and is making him read) nor the ones he learns in his honors English class. But the school's quirky rapping librarian, Mr. Mac, helps Nick discover both a love of reading and a way to connect with the girl of his dreams. Alexander skillfully juggles verse styles to realistically capture Nick's humor and smarts (showcased in witty footnoted definitions of words like "cachinnate" and "mewling"), passion for soccer, and vulnerability when being bullied, having surgery, or facing his parents' troubled marriage. Emotionally resonant and with a pace like a player on a breakaway, Nick's story will have readers agreeing: "The poems/ were cool./ The best ones were/ like bombs,/ and when all the right words/ came together/ it was like an explosion./ So good, I/ didn't want it to end." Ages 10–12. Agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency.

  • AudioFile Magazine Author Kwame Alexander (THE CROSSOVER) brings a natural energy to his reading, which, while not quite as polished as a professional narration might be, is still spirited and engaging. Written in verse, his novel is both smart and accessible. Middle-grade listeners are bound to recognize themselves in 12-year-old Nick, who loves soccer and hates words (his dad is a famous linguist who's always on him to read his dictionary of "weird and wonderful words"). As Nick struggles with balancing school, soccer, and problems at home, Alexander's poems revel in wordplay and express the gamut of genuine emotions. Listeners will be rooting for Nick through all the highs and lows. It's a great choice for listening together as a family. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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