CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Kings of the Court.
Victoria, BC: Orca, March, 2017.
180 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1219-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1220-8 (pdf), ISBN
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Lacey Hall.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“But Sameer,” interrupted Tom, “we have five players! Five. They’re going to run us into the ground. We have no subs. Not one sub! If we only had one more guy…”
“Hey!” said Vijay excitedly. “It’s just like the battle in my play!”
Mr. Williams stared at Vijay. “Why, you’re right, Vijay!”
“Guys!” Vijay said urgently, “It’s like Henry Five! Listen. England – like, you guys – is hugely outnumbered by France – McGee – in this battle – and the English are all like ‘oh man, this sucks! If only we had a few more guys!’ and King Henry – that’s me – does this big speech, inspiring them to fight.”
“So inspire us, Vijay,” said Nikho, “Now.”
The buzzer went off.
“Gotta be quick, here, Vijay,” Sameer said, putting his arm around his friend’s shoulders.
Vijay closed his eyes for a second. His thin face was serious as he recited, “The fewer men, the greater share of honour. God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more... From this day to the ending of the world, we shall be remembered.”He looked around the circle, and shouted above the roar of the crowd, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!”
After the Gladiators’ basketball coach gets fired for bullying behavior, the team is assigned a new coach – or rather is stuck with him. Mr. Williams, the new drama teacher, speaks in Shakespearian quotations and knows nothing about basketball. Sameer, scorekeeper for the team and long-time fan, along with Vijay, his best friend and the team mascot, tries his best to help the team succeed, despite the new coach’s weird techniques and demeanor.
Kings of the Court has great pacing and plot arc. The major conflict of the novel is set up early on by introducing a coach who bullies his team and doesn’t exemplify sportsmanlike behavior at their games. Coach Boss is quickly removed from the story in order to get to the heart of the plot – a struggling team that needs a boy’s passion for basketball to keep it going.
Sameer is a driven character, albeit somewhat flat. This flatness could be due to the story’s being short and progressing quickly to be able include everything. Despite this, Sameer is an extremely likable character and an exemplary lead.
The intertwining of Shakespeare and basketball was well done, and I enjoyed the development of Mr. Williams as he came into his own as the team’s new coach which was contrasted with the development of the team’s coming to find there is merit in using unconventional ways to learn something. This lesson wasn’t hitting the reader over the head – it was subtly woven throughout, which is a nice change from many young reader novels.
I believe both girls and boys would enjoy this book; however, I would definitely recommend Kings of the Court for boy readers looking to find something to which they can relate. The juxtaposition of theatre and sports creates an interesting dynamic that sets Kings of the Court apart from typical sports-themed novels.
Lacey Hall, a Masters of Children’s Literature student at The University of British Columbia, currently works at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the School of Business.
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