Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Summary: It’s the summer of 1988, and Chuck Bell is reeling from the death of his father. His mom decides to send him to his grandparents’ in Washington, D.C. to help them both heal. Chuck is not excited, and his grandfather’s work ethic doesn’t improve his outlook. But his cousin Roxie, a star basketball player, starts to get him interested in the game, and before long, he’s leaving his beloved comic books behind to try to be a superhero on the court (there are several comics about Chuck throughout the book). There’s a hint of romance for Chuck in the letters and phone calls he gets from his friend Crystal back home. When Chuck’s other friend, Skinny, comes to D.C. for a visit, Chuck finds himself in a difficult situation with a tough older crowd, and eventually ends up in jail for unknowingly possessing marijuana. That scare puts him on a path that readers of The Crossover will know led to a career in basketball and a love for the game that he will pass down to his sons Josh and Jordan. 416 pages: grades 5-8.
Pros: Fans of the 2014 Newbery medalist The Crossover will not be disappointed by this novel-in-verse prequel that tells the story of 12-year-old Chuck Bell. There’s a little fast-forwarding at the end, so readers learn of Chuck’s legacy to his two sons, as well as what happened to some of the characters from 1988.
Cons: Middle school or elementary? Fifth graders will definitely enjoy this, but be aware there is the whole arrested for possession scene towards the end of the book.