Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems

Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems

by Mel Glenn

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The Tower High Tigers basketball team is on top of the world and bringing the crowds to their feet in this collection of free prose poems that make up the absorbing story of a championship teams season. Meet Garrett James, the star of the team; Darnell Joyce, the lovable forward with no place to live; and the rest of the players, their families, coach, friends and


The Tower High Tigers basketball team is on top of the world and bringing the crowds to their feet in this collection of free prose poems that make up the absorbing story of a championship teams season. Meet Garrett James, the star of the team; Darnell Joyce, the lovable forward with no place to live; and the rest of the players, their families, coach, friends and girlfriends, teachers, and fans.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The language is frank and the characters sometimes seem typecast, but the story told by members of the high school basketball team, friends, family, and community in a series of poems is a grabber. The foreshadowing lets readers know that disaster looms; we just don't know how serious and who will survive. It is heart wrenching, hard hitting, and probably more realistic in the way kids think and talk than most of us would like. It is easy to read and may appeal to reluctant readers who have not found poetry to their liking.
VOYA - Ann Welton
This unusual book, written in accomplished free verse, tells the story of a high school basketball team's championship season. The voice of each of the players is heard, as are those of the coach and his wife, the team manager, and the families of the players. One young man seems destined for the NBA, while others, less talented, are no less driven. Family circumstances, poverty, early parenthood, and early death by violence all are presented in a text that is both gripping and touching. The fatal bus crash that ends the book and the lives of some of the young players, though amply foreshadowed, is still shocking. This is an excellent introduction to poetry for several reasons. The tight plotting will hold readers, even those with limited skills, as would a good novel. The free verse form allows for a wide range of expression, while creating a rap beat that might further draw readers. It is a superb example of narrative poetry and as such is an excellent classroom tool. The subject matter is thought provoking, as well, raising numerous issues-sports as a way out of poverty, the effects of discouragement on dreams, interracial dating, and (given the shooting death of one high-achieving young boy) debate surrounding gun control. High school students of both genders should find this book a quick, gripping read. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9--"To all my old-fogy colleagues,/Who seem to think that/Basketball has assumed some/Inordinate celestial weight/In the educational firmament,/I have a simple message: `Get a life!'" That phrase from physics teacher Fiona Sullivan is just one of the realistic viewpoints presented in Glenn's story, told in free-verse poems. Jump Ball captures the pulse of the basketball season--on and off the court--in poignant, honest, and well-spoken glimpses into the many personalities who work and play at Tower High School. The Tigers have a hot point guard, Garrett James, who is destined for the NBA--but he has to make it through high school first. A lot of demands are placed on him by school, fans, media, etc. Garrett's popularity affects everyone. His coach believes, "Publicity is a poison,/Like a cup of wine/That can raise a man to drunken heights/Only to crash him down into frightening depths." Teenage crushes, pregnancy, homelessnes, and the glamorization of athletes are all examined here. Tower High's championship season is chronicled in fine, easy-to-read vignettes interspersed with broadcast accounts of the games. The insights of the players and adults are cleverly penned. They're sure to interest sports fans or just those desiring a look into human nature. The startling, tragic event that grips the team at the end of the season will keep young people reading to learn the fate of the troubled and terrific Tigers.--Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Basketball dreams shatter when a high-school team bus goes out of control on an icy road in this latest novel-in-poems from Glenn (The Taking of Room 114, p. 222, etc.).

The course of Tower High's championship season becomes clear through the musings of a gallery of players, groupies, teachers, parents, and bystanders; the author expertly creates dramatic tension with early hints of the tragedy to come, but the voices he creates are largely focused on their own lives and concerns of the moment. Those voices are not as strong and distinct as some messages and strokes of broadly brushed irony, e.g., two pages after Rayanne Walker declares how hard she's worked to raise her son, and how hard he works to earn college money, he is killed in an attempted robbery—and his memorial service is just another item, along with the Spring Concert and the scores, in the school's morning announcements. Though Glenn's language is largely conversational, he breaks occasionally into quick, rap- like rhythms, or even concrete poetry, evoking the feel and pace of basketball action rather than conventionally describing it. His fans will find the characters falling into familiar types, and though at its best the poetry is exciting, some superficial, indifferent adults and the imminent crushing of so many hoop dreams give the story a bitter, discouraging cast.

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.77(w) x 8.49(h) x 0.71(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Tamba Senesie
In Nigeria,
My father is a university professor.
Everyone knows his name.
When he walks down the streets of our village,
Everyone tips their hats to him.
The little children pull at his leg.
The market women give him free oranges.
The old pas ask him many questions.
In America,
My father is a visiting university professor.
Nobody knows his name.
When he walks down the streets of the city,
Everyone pushes their way past him.
But my father does not seem to mind.
He walks like a man who knows who he is.
I will never be as distinguished as my father.
I do not possess his intellectual gifts.
But my tall body and broad shoulders
Give me confidence on the basketball court.
With much work and God's blessing,
Everybody will know my name,
In this country.

Parnell Payne
I'm a sweet walkin',
trash talkin',
guard stalkin'
mano on the court.
I'm a lane drivin',
high fivin',
ball divin'
big bro on the court.
I'm a head bangin',
rim hangin',
bell clangin'
all-go on the court.
I'm a cool rappin',
ball tap-in',
no nappin'
star pro on the court.
Parnell's my name,
You got no game.
Listen up, fool,
I'm takin' you to school.

Team Manager

Mighty pecs,
Developed necks,
Amazing biceps,
Flashy triceps.
Taking tabs
On super abs,
Zero fat's
Where I'm at.
Rounded buns,
Lots of fun,
Sweaty skin
For the mood I'm in.
Six foot nine,
God, so fine,
Gorgeous hunks,
Ain't no punks.
Got the best of all jobs, it seems,
Manager of the Tigers basketball team.

When I made the basketball team,
My father bought drinks
For all the guys down at the garage.
"When he was five I put up a hoop,"
He begins for the hundredth time,
"And practiced with my boy
All summer and nearly all winter."
I am the cup in his mental trophy case.
I am the plaque that hangs on his shop wall.
My permanent seat on the bench
Has not changed my father's dream one bit.
"You could score the game-winning jumper,
Or make the game-saving block," he says brightly.
"Dad, I'm a role player," I say, trying to explain,
"My job is to take a foul,
Or spell a starter for a minute or two."
"Don't talk like that," he says,
"You didn't think youd make the team, I did."
My father still dreams,
Of buzzer-beaters and bragging rights,
And, of course, stories
He can tell the guys down at the garage.

The bounce of the ball,
The cadence of the crowd,
The pulse of the players,
I hear that salsa beat.
The tiempo of the timbales,
The bang of the bass,
The kick of the congas,
I hear that salsa beat.
I bring the ball up court,
The music pounding in my brain.
Garrett rifles the orange to me,
A straight, true line of melody.
I fake right, go left,
Matching the rhythm that's in my head.
I penetrate the lane, bodies all around,
One step, two steps, get outta my way.
Pivot, twist, back to the circle,
Kick, kick, kick it on out.
Garrett jumps, he hangs, he shoots.
Hands, hands, follow through.
Swish, swish, the sound of the street,
Basketball, basketball, move to the beat.

My father doesn't talk to me.
He has worries of his own.
The company he works for
May go out of business soon.
He is too young to retire,
And too old to start over.
Late at night, when I go to the fridge
To grab a glass of milk,
I see him at the kitchen table
Deciding which bills to pay
And which ones to postpone.
He looks up at me as I pass by,
But doesn't say a word.
Putting the milk back,
I see a note held in place
By a small refrigerator magnet
That looks like a little basketball.
It is an announcement from the local paper
Of the day and time of our first playoff game.
I go quietly back to my room,
Being careful not to disturb my father,
Who is still busy with paper and pencil.
My father speaks to me,
Copyright © 1997 by Mel Glenn. Published by Dutton/Lodestar, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Mel Glenn grew up in Brooklyn, New York and has been teaching English for twenty-seven years at his alma mater, Lincoln High School. He has won many awards for his writing and is the author of six books of poetry and three novels for young adults. He and his wife, Elyse, live in Brooklyn with their two sons, Jonathan and Andrew.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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