Kwame Alexander’s THE PLAYBOOK: Rules to Live By

BookendsLynn: Parents and teachers of teenagers should be all-too-familiar with how many of their charges feel about rules and advice. My own two sons could have rolled their eyes for America! But those of us who have (mostly) achieved adulthood know that there is a lot of good advice that could really help young people. Getting them to listen is the key.

Newbery-winner Kwame Alexander’s new book, The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life (2017), might help. Alexander provides young adult readers with rules that apply to both basketball and life. The book is divided into four quarters, plus Warm Up and Overtime chapters. Each section contains rules that address things like grit, motivation, passion, and teamwork. Each rule is presented as a short, lively poem, bouncy in meter and useful in both basketball and life and comes with an apposite quote from successful and inspirational people.

Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in the Game Called Life by Kwame AlexanderRule #44


Are like family,

Celebrating Wins,

Consoling Losses,


A Net



Alexander clearly cares for young readers. He is earnest but never didactic, and his warmth shines through each word. That makes for a winner in my book.


Cindy: Let’s start with the cover. The Playbook plays off of the iconic covers of Alexander’s novels The Crossover and Booked, down to an image of a basketball made out of words and phrases. It’s sure to attract fans who will recognize the style of those popular books. The basketball theme continues with bright orange, pebbled endpapers.


The book’s graphics—bright orange, black, and white—illustrate vibrantly the poems, anecdotes, quotes, and inspirational stories; coupled with Thai Neave’s black-and-white sports photography, they do wonders to liven up the presentation. Of course, the text is great, too. Who can read Wilma Rudolph’s story of overcoming a crippling bout with polio to become an Olympic Champion and not walk away wanting to dig deep to work a little harder?

I can’t wait to share this book with our students, our homeroom teachers, and our coaches. I expect a slam dunk response. And if you find you don’t have enough copies to meet demand, follow Shaquille O’Neal’s quote in the section on focus:

“I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution.”

So. . . order more copies. 🙂



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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