Kick Push

[Many Calling Caldecott posts this season will begin with the Horn Book Magazine review of the featured book, followed by the post's author's critique.]


Kick Push: Be Your Epic Self
by Frank Morrison; illus. by the author
Primary    Bloomsbury    40 pp.    g
4/22    978-1-5476-0592-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0593-4    $13.29

How can a budding skateboard pro navigate being in a new place and leaving his posse behind? Ivan, a brown-skinned, big-afro-wearing skateboarder, has “moves so big, his friends call him EPIC.” But without an audience, what good are amazing moves? He tries playing football, soccer, and basketball to fit in, but these are not his jam; Epic fails miserably at each of them. His dad advises him to be as tenacious about finding new buddies as he is about acquiring new moves — and eventually he does make friends. ­Morrison (CSK Illustrator Award winner for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, rev. 7/20) immerses readers in a vibrant urban neighborhood through a diverse group of inhabitants, busy street scenes, and expansive graffiti on some walls; he appeals to skateboarding fans by mentioning such “gnarly tricks” as the “backside flip kick push flaky” and the “50-50 grind.” The illustrations’ dynamic perspectives — ­including a view from above the street on which Epic skates and another from underneath his board — along with frequent swoosh lines, emphasize the character’s perpetual motion. Elliott and Denmon’s A Place Inside of Me (rev. 11/20), a Caldecott Honor book about another dedicated skateboarder, would make an excellent companion read. A lively story that encourages kids to use their strengths and talents to find community. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


A skateboarding tale of "Epic" proportions that exalts readers to “BE YOU!” Ivan, nicknamed Epic, a slender Black boy with an impressively expansive afro, has moved and needs to find a new posse with a passion for skateboarding as fervent as his own. What’s the use of amazing moves without “compadres to cheer ‘em”? Dad assures Epic that just as he has never nailed a new skateboarding trick on the first try, if he keeps an open mind, friends will come.

Morrison’s signature graffiti art and penchant for giving readers a view into the protagonist's world from a variety of unique vantage points make this picture book a visual feast. In one double-page spread, Epic appears to fly above his skateboard, feet spread apart, arms balancing, with the bottom of skateboard facing the reader as if we are sitting on the sidewalk below Epic, checking out his tricks. These interesting angles and visual perspectives put readers in the position of those friends who finally emerge...who have probably been watching him, this wheeling whiz kid, all along.

Many of these scenes also exude a positive urban experience. Even while Epic sleeps and dreams, the striped lights that illuminate his face — black, white, and red — hint at the lights that shine into his window from this busy cityscape in which he lives. Reminiscent of the elongated African American figures in Ernie Barnes's painting "The Sugar Shack" (of Good Times sitcom artistic fame), Morrison’s characters embody movement and attitude. Morrison’s illustrations of characters’ eyes reveal their surprise, fear, uncertainty, and curiosity, and even without accompanying body language. Also true to the urban space in which the story takes place, the characters have skin color in every shade, and facial features and hairstyles capture the uniqueness of each person.

This gritty, fast-paced story, which rolls along as swiftly as does Epic, will speak to readers who love wheels but also to those who need a little encouragement to find the friends they deserve.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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