Charly Palmer will have young readers on the edge of their seats from the narrator’s very first words in The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale: “I’ve heard you young folks talking about who is the best ballplayer to ever grace the court. Like that ‘King James’ someone or other. He’s not too shabby. But have you ever heard of Gravity?”
Gravity, the new kid in the Hillside projects neighborhood in Milwaukee, walks onto a playground court and asks to join the game. He’s quickly revealed to be so talented that everyone wants him on their team. When it’s time for the citywide pickup tournament, Gravity’s team, the Eagles, employs a simple strategy of “getting the ball to Gravity and letting him do the rest.” They make it all the way to the finals, where the opposition proves tougher than Gravity can handle alone. The Eagles will have to come together to stand a chance of winning.
The Legend of Gravity is expertly told, full of suspense and humor, and Palmer fully embraces the language of legend. His titular “one-man show” of a player “once jumped so high that we were able to go out for ice cream before he came down.” Palmer introduces Gravity’s teammates by their wonderful, evocative nicknames, such as Left 2 Right (“you never know where he’s going”) and Sky High (“when he jumped, he looked like he could touch the clouds”). When Palmer reveals the narrator’s identity at a pivotal moment in the championship game, it’s a fabulous surprise that’s guaranteed to delight.
Palmer’s impressionistic art perfectly conveys the story’s energy. The first time we see Gravity, it’s in a close-up of his black-and-white sneakers and lanky legs striding onto the court. An especially epic spread depicts Gravity soaring into outer space while his teammates on the court stare up at him in awe. His orange basketball glows against the deep blue background and alongside several warm-toned planets. Palmer alternates between spot art and full- and double-page illustrations, and the effect is reminiscent of the way televised sports broadcasts move from close-ups to full-court coverage. Readers will feel like they have courtside seats as they listen in on team discussions and watch the Eagles’ strategy play out.
The Legend of Gravity is a riveting rocket of a tale. Like a memorable championship game, it deserves to be revisited over and over again by legions of devoted fans.