Review Detail

Graphic Novel Adaptation of Soccer Novel in Verse
Overall rating
 
4.5
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
5.0
Nick Hall lives with his mother, who is a horse trainer currently between jobs, and his father, who is a professor of linguistics who has written a dictionary about interesting words that he is always encouraging Nick to read. Nick, however, is all about playing soccer with his friend Coby, and isn't a fan of words. This causes him some problems with his teacher, Ms. Hardwick, who manages to assign an amazing amount of books. These even include Huckleberry Finn, in which Nick is assigned to find examples of malapropism when he gets in trouble in class. To the teacher's surprise, he gives her two examples in a black out poem, which she finds amusing. Classmate April, on whom Nick has a crush, also finds his love of words amusing, and encourages him to read more books. The two attend a cotillion type dance class together as well. The cool school librarian, Mr. MacDonald, who wears Chuck Taylors, reading themed tee shirts, and was a rap producer before he became a school librarian also encourages Nick to read, giving him a biography of Pele. Colby and Nick are very excited about playing in a soccer tournament in Dallas, but Nick's parents have some life changing news; they are separating, and Nick's mother is moving to Kentucky to take a job as a horse trainer. Adding to Nick's stress are two school bullies who have been suspended, but everything in his life brings him to a point where he tells his father he wishes he were dead, and they immediately take him to counseling. Nick isn't a huge fan of the doctor, but does examine his issues with him. When Nick isn't feeling well during a soccer game (a fact which attributes to food poisoning, and perhaps the fact that April has come to watch him play), he is knocked out and injures his ankle in a bad play, and when he is in the hospital, the doctor tells him there is worse news; his appendix has ruptured, and he has to have surgery immediately before an infection sets in. While Nick is glad his mother has returned home, the doctor tells him he won't be able to play soccer for three weeks, which means he will have to miss the Dallas tournament. He spends time in the hospital, and is so bored that he reads books that Mr. Mac and April recommend to him. This leads to April bringing her book club to his house and meeting his mother, who thinks she is great and invites her to go horse riding with Nick. Nick thinks that things are looking up, but as his health improves, his mother heads back to Kentucky, and Nick learns that life changes constantly.
Good Points
This is an adaptation of Alexander's novel in verse, and while I don't have the original at hand to compare, it almost seemed that the majority of the text was included in the adaptation, with Anyabwile's excellent drawings accompanying it. Unlike traditional graphic novels, that are arranged like comic books with speech bubbles and squares of scenes, this has the words, which are in various font sizes, on the page. There are a lot of definitions of words in boxed footnotes as well. Since I feel a need to look at all of the pictures in graphic novels and think about how they support the text, this took me longer to read than the novel in verse, but readers who like graphic novels and use the pictures to support their understanding of the words will appreciate the pictorial backup.

Anyabwile's black and white drawings, with green accents that bring in the color from the cover of the novel in verse, are always expressive and engaging, and readers who enjoyed his work in the adaptation of the popular Crossover and Rebound will be glad to pick up this new title.

There are not as many sports graphic novels as I would like, but there have been a few more lately. Yang's Dragon Hoops (basketball), Johnson's The Breakaways (soccer), Wilson's Play Like a Girl (football), and Dawson's Fifth Quarter (basketball) are ones to keep in mind for readers who enjoy Alexander's series, and Anyabwile's work can also be seen in the memoir by Tommie Smith about his life and his 1969 Olympic experience, entitled Stand. Victory: Raising My Fist for Justice. (September 2022)
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