Strong to the Hoop
Playground basketball is always about a rite of passage: proving yourself able to play at the next level. It’s a metaphor for life in the larger world, of course, but it’s also an intense, image-rich world of its own. Author Coy and illustrator Jean-Bart capture that intensity in this well-realized picture book for older readers… Coy’s text moves with all the free-wheeling speed of playground ball, and the first-person narration captures James’ fear as well as his determination. Best of all, though, are Jean-Bart’s collage-style illustrations, produced by combining Polaroid photographs and scratchboard drawings. The result melds the realism of the players’ photos with the flat but evocative symbolism of the scratchboard settings (as if three-dimensional figures appeared on cave paintings). Real-life kids competing on a mythic playing field-that’s the message here, but you don’t need to understand it in those terms to feel its allure.