Book Review: B is for Baller: The Ultimate Basketball Alphabet by James Littlejohn illustrated by Matthew Shipley
NBA All Star Weekend just completed. In honor of that, I’ll review the picture book B is for “Baller: The Ultimate Basketball Alphabet” by James Littlejohn and illustrated by Matthew Shipley.
The first thing that jumps out to you while reading the book are Shipley’s illustrations. The actual illustrations of the basketball players are really interesting. The illustrations are on the one hand realistic, but also fantastical in how the illustrations give nods to the players nicknames. For instance, Lebron James is dressed like a king, David Robinson an admiral, Dr. J is a Doctor, and Kylie Irving as Uncle Drew. One thing I love about this book is that it features players from different eras of NBA history from Bill Russell to Steph Curry and everyone in between. Littlejohn’s text also highlights some of the unique characters in NBA history like Dennis Rodman, Bill Walton, and Larry “GrandMama” Johnson. The text and illustrations feature countless cool small references to Basketball history. When reading the book to a young child, or when around a child who is reading it themselves, an adult scaffolding the child’s understand of all the references could open up the opportunity for interesting multigenerational conversations. For instance, a young basketball fan might get Littlejohn’s reference to Kevin Durant’s famous speech about his mom when he writes “it doesn’t matter what he says, KD is the real MVP”, but a young fan might not know “The Glove” was Gary Payton or catch Dikembe’s wagging finger. Overall this is a great book for any budding basketball fan and in a way almost seems like a child friendly companion piece to Shea Serrano’s “Basketball and Other Things”.