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H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination Hardcover – October 9, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Two friends on an urban basketball court begin a game of H.O.R.S.E. For the uninitiated, Myers does a fine job describing how to play the game, which is similar to Ghost: one player shoots any kind of shot (layup, jumper, etc.) and the other player has to duplicate it. If the second player fails to make the shot, he gets one letter and the game continues until someone loses five times and spells the word H.O.R.S.E. It sounds simple enough, until these two players get creative, such as balancing on the top of a 437-story building and shooting a perfect layup with the left foot. As the friends raise the stakes and the braggadocio rises to an inventive pitch, readers will appreciate the grand humor. White or plain background space emphasizes the dramatic shots that are dreamed up. In addition, the text waves up and beyond the skyline just as the ball can soar. This book will encourage all readers to grab a close friend and get out to play a game, matching their athleticism to their imaginations.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"If you own a basketball, you've played Horse, the court equivalent of follow-the-leader: 'Right, we call it "ghost" where I come from. But the game's the same. You start.' And thus begins a wild round of one-upmanship in which each of two friends plans his opening shot. The bald dude starts off modestly enough: 'I'm going to skyhook this ball clear across the court into that basket, with my eyes closed, standing on one foot, over my left shoulder.' Not to be outdone, the headbanded dude orchestrates a shot that involves climbing up 437 flights of stairs and calculating wind speed, and then 'I will stand on one tiny tiptoe, balance myself on the topmost corner of the 437-story building, and shoot a perfect layup, with my left . . . foot.' And they're just getting started. Of course, neither gets around to actually taking a shot, but they don't care and neither will the reader, because it's all about talking a little good-humored smack. The only thing stretchier than Myers' lanky buddies is their imagination, and the literal renderings of their outrageous plans (how about an airborne tongue dunk? Or a trip into space, with a cameo by Neil deGrasse Tyson?) are as hilarious as the patter. In a closing note Myers explains this work is inspired by games of Horse played with his photographer friend, Kambui, and this tribute to friendship incorporates snippets of Kambui's photographic medium with Myers' painting. The freewheeling format and broadly popular topic makes this eminently saleable as either a readalone or readaloud, and kids familiar with Myers' illustrations of Zora Neale Hurston's whoppers in Lies and Other Tall Tales (BCCB 1/06) will welcome his latest venture into hyperbole." ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books(Journal)
When two boys with big imaginations and lots of bravado meet on the basketball court and agree to play a game of H.O.R.S.E. (where players take turns making the same trick shots), the game quickly gets out of hand―literally, as it turns into wordplay. The boys alternate describing the wildly impossible shots they'll take―from the tops of buildings, after circumnavigating the globe, and from outer space. Each imagined shot builds on the last, upping the ante in what becomes a clever verbal version of H.O.R.S.E. Myers's graceful illustrations employ his signature combination of gouache painting and cut-paper collages using photographs as backgrounds, but there is more painting than collage here, and consequently, more space for the imagination to take flight. We see the bragging twosome, face to face, working up descriptions of their shots, and then we are treated to dynamic double-page spreads of what each shot would look like. Large, bold typography, printed in brown for the dialogue of one boy and dark blue for the other, twists and curls around the page, tracing the movement of the ball―or the movement the ball would make if the two boys ever stopped talking and started playing. This crowd-pleasing picture book will appeal to young children who will enjoy the whimsy, and to older readers who will appreciate the escalating wordplay in the boys' challenges to each other." ―The Horn Book Magazine(Journal)
"This wonderfully inventive, mordant duel of words offers both an advanced discussion of a particular sport (basketball) and flights of big-talking fancy. The setting is urban; Myers (Looking Like Me) creates collages that combine painting, lots of blank space, and photo images of city buildings. A pair of gangly and competitive boys co-star. 'Hey,' says one, 'want to play a game of horse?' setting the stage for a war of words in which the boys propose ever more improbable shots, taking the one-upmanship, swagger, and style inherent to the game to delirious extremes. 'I will stand on one tiny tiptoe, balance myself on the topmost corner of the 437-story building, and shoot a perfect layup, with my left... foot,' says one boy. 'Now you tell me,' protests the other in mock dismay. 'What?' 'That we could leave the court.' Although the book lands softly after the last crazy idea ('from there, the ball will ricochet through the vacuum of space'), the energetic dialogue and gravity-defying artwork more than compensate. An excellent readaloud for kids who scorn fluffy-bunny books and want to play like the big kids." ―starred, Publishers Weekly(Journal)
"In a show of intense skill, imagination, and bravado, two young men engage in a lively game of H.O.R.S.E. on the basketball court. Friendly smack-talk dialog leads the two competitors to imagine amazing feats of strength and prowess on the court. Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor recipient Christopher Myers uses intricate photo-collages to depict city landscapes while his characters come alive with brushstroke and bold color. Engaging readers young and old in the high-interest topic of sports while imparting ideals of self-confidence and resourceful creativity, this book is a fresh conversation that warrants a listen. Highly Recommended." ―starred, Library Media Connection
"Two teens on a city basketball court start a game of matching each other's shots. Miss five tries and you are out!
The first to spell out H.O.R.S.E. loses, so these two literally shoot for the stars. Easy shots are baby stuff for them. Their conversation goes back and forth as the hoopsters, a guy and a gal, leave the physical confines of the court and let their imaginations take flight. He takes a mighty jump for his 'Magellan shot,' leaving New York and going 'clear around the world.' She aims an 'outer-space resistant' ball with a 'kind of bounce shot' that hits Saturn, mystifies astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, returns to Earth and slips cleanly through the hoop. 'Not bad at all,' responds the guy. Myers has great fun with his gravity-defying trash talk and spirited game of one-upmanship. His ballplayers are beautiful, elongated figures painted in brightly textured yellow, blue and brown pastels. Photographic collages of New York City buildings adorn the pages. In his author's note, Myers states that the shots are all fact-based. Who's to argue?
An exciting bragging-rights adventure on the basketball court, around and beyond planet Earth and back again." ―Kirkus Reviews
"Two friends on an urban basketball court begin a game of H.O.R.S.E. For the uninitiated, Myers does a fine job describing how to play the game, which is similar to Ghost: one player shoots any kind of shot (layup, jumper, etc.) and the other player has to duplicate it. If the second player fails to make the shot, he gets one letter and the game continues until someone loses five times and spells the word H.O.R.S.E. It sounds simple enough, until these two players get creative, such as balancing on the top of a 437-story building and shooting a perfect layup with the left foot. As the friends raise the stakes and the braggadocio rises to an inventive pitch, readers will appreciate the grand humor. White or plain background space emphasizes the dramatic shots that are dreamed up. In addition, the text waves up and beyond the skyline just as the ball can soar. This book will encourage all readers to grab a close friend and get out to play a game, matching their athleticism to their imaginations." ―School Library Journal(Journal)
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But what about the story? It’s a conversation between two kids in the city, united by their love of basketball and wide imaginations. They know the game H.O.R.S.E. by different names, and they may have different ideas of the parameters – but once it starts, their dreams expand. It’s half trash talk, half tall tale, and a joy to read. It’s a testament to the power of sport (or any shared interest) to unite people and fire imagination.
The artwork, though! It’s another step up. Mixed media (some paint, some altered photographs) blend to create the setting: first the basketball court, then the cityscape, and then the planet and space. The two unnamed main characters are African-American kids with a passion for the game, and Myers has distilled their gangly adolescence in these pages, as well as the boastful reach of their dreams.
In all, H.O.R.S.E. is a beautiful book and an homage to a game, a friendship, and telling stories.
Recommended for: all-ages fans of art, picture books, and basketball.
The book itself, without audio, is pretty fun, as well. Perhaps I'd have only given it 4 stars, but basketball is such a common love among kids that I'd still have advocated for pretty liberal purchases. Not just public libraries and schools, but any family that is into sport would get a lot of repeat reads from this book. It does a good job in the beginning of teaching the game of HORSE, and then going on in these high-energy bursts to completely redefine and mythologize the game.
Good fun, go give the book AND the game a try!