What do a Shakespearean drama teacher and a last place basketball team have in common? Not much to begin with, but Edmonton author, Alison Hughes, has taken these two elements and crafted a novel, Kings of the Court, that will inspire middle school readers to be passionate about being the best that they can be, regardless of their goal or how hopeless the journey appears to be.
“In basketball, as in life, there are many ways to contribute.” And, you have a lot to contribute. Find your place, and when you’ve found it, dig in and dig deep”. This is the advice Sameer gets from his basketball-fanatic grandmother after he fails to make the school team.
Basketball is Sameer’s passion, so when he cannot play on the team, he takes on other tasks – scoring, announcing and keeping the game statistics. The team is in last place, thoroughly demoralized by a coach who bullies and intimidates. When that coach is fired, things look even worse when the only staff member willing to coach is the new drama teacher whose passion is Shakespeare.
Hughes has juxtaposed sports and theatre to create a novel that has heart and energy. As the plot develops, the team learns some lessons on commitment, “to dig in and dig deep”, and they learn about the power of unconventional coaching from the teacher of Shakespeare. Their teacher learns much about basketball and teamwork from the boys who did not give up. The reader takes away some life lessons on friendship, goals, teamwork, appreciating individual differences, as well as some relevant Shakespearean quotes, and an amusing introduction to Henry V. The use of theatre and sports, plus both a strong male and female character, makes this a dynamic, complex novel that will appeal to a range of readers in Division 2.