by Kwame Alexander

Now in paperback! Longlisted for the National Book Award and a NYT bestseller! Soccer, love, and friendship take center stage in this novel in verse by Newbery winner Kwame Alexander. 

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328596307
  • ISBN-10: 1328596303
  • Pages: 336
  • Publication Date: 03/05/2019
  • Carton Quantity: 24

About the book

New York Times Bestseller · National Book Award Longlist · ILA-CBC Children's Choice List · ALA Notable Children’s Book · Book Links’ Lasting Connections · Kirkus Best Book · San Francisco Chronicle Best Book· Washington Post Best Book· BookPage Best Book 


"A novel about a soccer-obsessed tween boy written entirely in verse? In a word, yes. Kwame Alexander has the magic to pull off this unlikely feat, both as a poet and as a storyteller. " The Chicago Tribune 


Can’t nobody stop you 

Can’t nobody cop you… 


In this follow-up to Newbery-winner The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage. Twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.   


This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match! Now in paperback.

About the author
Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty-five books, including Rebound, the follow-up to his Newbery medal–winning middle grade novel, The Crossover. Some of his other works include Booked, which was longlisted for the National Book Award, The Playbook: 52 Rules to Help You Aim, Shoot, and Score in this Game of Life, Swing, and the picture books Out of Wonder and The Undefeated, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor, and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.He is a regular contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, currently serving as their poet ambassador. He lives with his family in the UK. Visit his website at or find him on Twitter and Instagram @kwamealexander.



on the pitch, lightning faSt, 

dribble, fake, then make a dash 


player tries tO steal the ball 

lift and step and make him fall 


zip and zoom to find the spot 

defense readies for the shot 


Chip, then kick it in the air 

take off like a Belgian hare 


shoot it left, but watch it Curve 

all he can do is observe 


watch the ball bEnd in midflight 

play this game faR into night.

Wake Up Call

After playing FIFA 

online with Coby 

till one thirty a.m. 

last night, 

you wake 

this morning 

to the sound 

of Mom arguing 

on the phone 

with Dad.


Did you make up your bed? 

Yeah. Can you put bananas in my pancakes, please? 


Did you finish your homework? 

Yeah. Can we play a quick game of Ping-Pong, Mom? 


And what about the reading. I didn’t see you doing that yesterday. 

Mom, Dad’s not even here. 


Just because your father’s away doesn’t mean you can avoid your chores. 

I barely have time for my real chores. 


Perhaps you should spend less time playing Xbox at all hours of the night. 



Oh, you think I didn’t know? 

I’m sick of reading his stupid words, Mom. I’m going to high school next year and I shouldn’t have to keep doing this.

Why couldn’t your dad

be a musician 

like Jimmy Leon’s dad 

or own an oil company 

like Coby’s? 

Better yet, why couldn’t 

he be a cool detective 


a sleek silver 

convertible sports car 

like Will Smith 

in Bad Boys

Instead, your dad’s 

a linguistics professor 

with chronic verbomania* 

as evidenced 

by the fact 

that he actually wrote 

a dictionary 

called Weird and Wonderful Words 


     get this, 


* verbomania [vurb-oh-mey-nee-uh] noun: a crazed obsession for words. Every freakin’ day I have to read his “dictionary,” which has freakin’ FOOTNOTES. That’s absurd to me. Kinda like ordering a glass of chocolate milk, then asking for chocolate syrup on the side. Seriously, who does that? SMH!

In the elementary school spelling bee

when you intentionally 

misspelled heifer, 

he almost had a cow. 


You’re the only kid 

on your block 

at school 


who lives in a prison 

of words. 

He calls it the pursuit of excellence. 

You call it Shawshank. 

And even though your mother 

forbids you to say it, 

the truth is 





2017 ILA-CBC Children's Choice List 

Book Links’ Lasting Connections 2016 

Kirkus Best of 2016 

Nerdy Book Club Nerdies 2016 Poetry/Novels in Verse 

New York Times Bestseller 

San Francisco Chronicle Best of 2016 

Washington Post Best of 2016 

BookPage Best of 2016 


"A novel about a soccer-obsessed tween boy written entirely in verse? In a word, yes.Kwame Alexander has the magic to pull off this unlikely feat, both as a poet and as a storyteller. " —The Chicago Tribune 


"This lively, touching middle school soccer story is full of fun." —Common Sense Media 


* "A satisfying, winning read." —Kirkus, starred review 


* "Alexander skillfully juggles verse styles to realistically capture Nick's humor and smarts, passion for soccer, and vulnerability when being bullied, having surgery, or facing his parents' troubled marriage. Emotionally resonant and with a pace like a player on a breakaway..." — Publishers Weekly, starred review 


* "Alexander understands reluctant readers deeply, and here hands them a protagonist who is himself a smart, reading-averse kid who just wants to enjoy the words that interest him on his own terms. With accessible poetic forms and engaging formatting, Booked ’s pages will be turned swiftly and enthusiastically." — Horn BookMagazine, starred review 


* "Middle-school readers and their advocates will surely love Alexander’s joyous word play and celebration of reading." — Booklist, starred review 


"Newbery-winning poet Alexander once again brings to life a novel in verse that equally captures the rapid-fire excitement of a soccer match and the palpable pain of a young boy whose family is falling apart. Another winning goal for Alexander and middle school readers alike." —School Library Journal 


"This is a fantastic book with a never-ending supply of new words like “onomatophobia” and “yobbery” that will leave readers full of new words and ideas. This is an absolute must-have for any library serving tweens." — VOYA 


"A powerful story that will leave the reader breathless, right to the very end." — BookPage Children's Top Pick