Blog Tour: The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander

the_playbook_cover1You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?  

Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama.

Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement. 

There’s a feeling that you get inside of you when you read something by Kwame Alexander. There’s a lyricism – a rhythm – to his words that draws you in and you can feel them circling around in your mind. The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot and Score in this Game Called Life adds beautiful and evocative photographs to Alexander’s poetic interpretation of the rules, as well as personal memories and collected wisdom from a star-studded list of greats that builds the basic rules of basketball into personal inspiration.

Resilience (noun)

the ability to

recover quickly

from difficulty;


The book is a quick read, but also one that you will find that you go back to again and again. Alexander’s lessons aren’t meant to show that playing the game isn’t easy, but that determination, hard work, teamwork, trust and resilience (among many other qualities) will help you through. The transition from middle grade into high school is one of the most challenging times in a young adult’s life, and Alexander’s book is the perfect quiet guide for some of those troubling times. His poetry, intermingled with real-life stories of famous athletes and his own experiences, keep the book at a reader-friendly level without becoming preachy. His poetic take on the rules distils life down to the basics, and these simple reminders are something we all need to keep in mind.

Rule #45

A loss is inevitable,

Like rain in spring.

True champions


to dance


the storm.

The addition of Thai Neave’s photography and the unique layout of the book (especially the visual hit of black, white, grey and orange) brings the rules and the stories into sharp focus, and I found myself at times studying the photos as much as the text. I could easily see images such as the one below blown up and hung in a classroom, youth centre or coach’s office, and I’m secretly kind of hoping that there will be something produced for just such a purpose. I know that there will be readers who will jot down particular quotes and rules that speak to them, and each reader will find something special to them within the pages.


Overall, this deceptively simple book packs a huge emotional wallop. It’s the perfect read for teachers and their class, for coaches and their players, and for kids and their families. Kwame Alexander’s inspirational poetry, based on sports but applied to all aspects of life, is clearly meant to encourage and support young readers on their journey to success. A beautiful book layout, complimented by photos from Thai Neave, holds the reader’s attention throughout. If you spend any time with young people, I can’t recommend this book enough.

About the Author/Photographer

kwame_alexander_pix_11Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times best-selling author of 21 books, including Booked and The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize.

Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book, Crush: Love Poems for Teenagers, and He Said She Said, a YA novel. He lives with his family in Virginia. Visit his website at

thai-neaveThai Neave is a former SportsCenter Anchor for ESPN and now works as a freelance photographer and journalist.   He currently resides between Los Angeles and Sydney.

You can follow his work at:


A copy of The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life was provided by Raincoast Books for this blog tour. It will be published on February 14, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers, and is available for preorder from your favourite online or in-person booksellers. ISBN: 9780544570979, 173 pages.