The playbook: 52 rules to aim, shoot, and score in this game called life

Kwame Alexander has written a motivational book that combines a stunning visual design with inspirational quotes and motivation stories of successful people.

Motivational book, nonfiction
Interest Level: grades 4 and up; Reading Level: 6.7
5 out of 5 stars


The hook that will draw many children to this book will be the sports theme. The colors used throughout are orange, black, and white — the same colors that were used in Alexander’s Newbery winning book, The Crossover. The end papers are raised and provide the textural feel of a basketball. There are many black and white photos of people playing sports. The book is even divided into four quarters, like a basketball game.

Each quarter of the book features a different inspirational theme: grit, motivation, focus, and teamwork and resilience. Halftime is a brief piece about passion, the warm-up goes over the rules, and overtime covers tenacity.

However, for all of the sports feel, this book is meaningful to a much larger audience than just the sports fan. The book features quotes from famous individuals, along with further words of wisdom provided by Alexander. While many are sport related, the meaning for most can also be used to talk about academics or life in general.

Rule #35
There is no magic to achievement. It’s really about hard work, choices, and persistence.
–Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America

Brief biographical sketches feature Wilma Rudolph, LeBron James, Pele, Venus and Serena Williams, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All sports are covered in the book, male and females are equally represented, and athletes and non-athletes are included.
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The book is visually appealing and each two-page spread looks like an inspirational poster. This book will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Reluctant readers will like the visuals and limited text. Sports fans and athletes will be drawn to the theme and athletic quotes and stories. Teachers or parents can give this to students who may need some inspiration to get through tough times in school.

For maker space areas in libraries or schools, there are many quotes that focus on overcoming failure. Since part of the purpose of maker spaces is to encourage children to step out of their comfort zone and try new things, we need to let them know that failure is part of the learning process.

Rule #22
If you’re afraid to fail, then yo’re probably going to fail.
–Kobe Bryant, five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers</blockquote
Kwame Alexander has written another book that will appeal to a diverse group of people.


The playbook: 52 rules to aim, shoot, and score in this game called life
by Kwame Alexander; photographs by Thai Neave
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
ISBN 978-0-544-57097-9

That’s Me Loving You

Picture book, motivational
Interest level: Pre-K through grade 1, graduates; Reading level: 1.3
4 out of 5 stars


This book would make a great gift for kids about to go off to college, or for a child going to daycare or school for the first time. The story reassures a child that a parent’s love is always with them, even if they are apart. Reminders from nature will help them feel this connection…

That drifting cloud?
That’s me thinking of you.

That persistent mosquito?
That’s me bugging you.

This book was published not long before Amy passed away. Reading it was like reading a love letter to her family; that reminder that even after she is no longer on this earth, they will still feel her in the world around them.


That’s Me Loving You
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrations by Teagan White
Random House, 2016
ISBN 978-1-101-93238-4

Plant a Kiss

Picture book, motivational
Interest level: Pre-K through grade 1; graduation gifts; Reading level: 1.0
4 out of 5 stars


Sometimes we all need to be reminded that there is good in the world. Two children’s authors that work to spread positivity through their books as well as in their lives are Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds. They teamed up to write Plant a Kiss.

The story focuses on a young child who plants a kiss. The child nurtures the kiss with “Sunshine. Water. Greet.” until one day a fountain of sparkly love pops out of the earth. The child decides to share the love, but is warned that it’s too rare to share, and she will run out. “She didn’t care” and gathers the love in a bowl and spreads it far and wide, until the bowl is empty. As she returns to where she planted the original kiss, she discovers that “from one little kiss…endless bliss!”
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This book is a great reminder that the world is a better place when we unselfishly share joy and love with others.


Plant a Kiss
written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Harper, 2012
ISBN 978-0-06-198675-8