Friday, March 31, 2023

Guy Friday- Simon B. Rhymin' Gets in the Game

Reed, Dwayne. Simon B. Rhymin' Gets in the Game
April 4, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Simon is back after advocating for the homeless in his Creighton Park neighborhood in Chicago. This time, he is sure he will have mad skills on the basketball court as he joins the rec league Panthers that many in his family played for, and he is concerned that his neighborhood is being gentrified. Even though some of the places Simon frequents, like Wheeler's store or Mr. Ray's barbershop, are somewhat run down, there is a strong sense of community there. A local Quick Stop is very appealing to kids like C.J., however, especially when the snacks he likes go up to sixty cents a packet at Wheelers, while they occasionally go on sale for three for a dollar at the Quick Stop. C.J., who is very fond of snacks and video games, has to be convinced by Maria and Simon to join th Panthers, but once he does, he finds he has a knack for the game. Simon, however, does not, and is very worried about his skills. Throwing air balls will not reflect well on his neighborhood! Mr. James, who is Simon's teacher, is also an assistant coach. In class, he is having the students look into the idea of gentrification, and to see how it is affecting their neighborhood. Maria's older sister is very interested in this topic, and in what gentrification might mean to the community. Simon thinks that it's a good idea to have a rally centered around an upcoming Panthers game that will also take a hard look at what local businesses mean, and hopes to raise awareness so that local businesses like Wheelers will be able to stay open. With the help of his friends, family, and teachers, will he be able to keep his Creighton Park neighborhood the close knit and supportive place he needs?
Strengths: Simon's supportive family and walkable neighborhood were a lot of fun to read about, and the role of the rec league basketball team as a source of local pride was great. I found that I was heavily invested in Wheeler's store, and wish that I had somewhere similar that I could walk to. It would be worth increased prices to have the McCrory's at a plaza near me return! Simon's slow realization that the Quick Stop isn't better even though it is new and shiny was well done-- it doesn't carry the local brand of grape soda he likes, the clerks don't know him as well as Mr. Wheeler does, and at one point, all kids have to be accompanied by a parent to even enter! There's plenty of basketball for sports fans, and some of Simon's inimitable rhymin'. 
Weaknesses: There's a lot of nonstandard English in this, and as a former Latin teacher, the cavalier use of helping verbs made me cringe. I know that some people use "ain't" in actual conversation, but I don't like reading it. 
What I really think: Readers who like Bildner's Rip and Red series or Giles Take Back the Block will enjoy this second installment of Simon's story, expecially since it has a lot of basketball in it. I'm not sure my seventh graders will pick it up, but I think my 6th graders will enjoy it. 

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