Before the ever after

Jacqueline Woodson

Book - 2020

ZJ's friends Ollie, Darry and Daniel help him cope when his father, a beloved professional football player, suffers severe headaches and memory loss that spell the end of his career.--

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jFICTION/Woodson, Jacqueline
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Children's Room Show me where

jFICTION/Woodson Jacqueli
1 / 1 copies available
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Novels in verse
New York : Nancy Paulsen Books [2020]
Physical Description
161 pages ; 22 cm
Ages 10 up.
Main Author
Jacqueline Woodson (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Woodson delivers a poignant new novel in verse that highlights an important topic within the sports world, especially football. Zacharias Johnson, Jr. (aka ZJ) is the son of a football star. The world adores him, and to that outside world ZJ, his dad, and the rest of his family enjoy a charmed life. However, outside of the spotlight, things aren't as perfect as they appear. ZJ's father is having health issues from repeated hard hits and head injuries while playing pro. He struggles with headaches, anger, and heartbreaking memory loss. Between the myriad doctor visits, medications, and medical tests, ZJ's life quickly turns from charmed to tragic as he has to face that his father and family are forever changed. ZJ initially fights his new reality and must learn to lean on family, friends, and the support of his community in his grief in order to move forward. Woodson again shows herself to be a masterful writer, and her meaningful exploration of concussions and head injuries in football, a subject rarely broached in middle-grade fiction, provides young athletes with necessary insights into sport's less glamorous side. In addition to this, it is a novel that explores family, mental illness, and the healing that a tight-knit, loving community can provide.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: It's Jacqueline Woodson! Her name alone draws a crowd, but the publisher is doubling down with extensive marketing plans. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

National Book Award winner Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) provides a beautiful and heart-wrenching story in her latest middle grade novel. Twelve-year-old Zachariah "ZJ" Johnson Jr.'s pro-football player father has always been hailed as an American hero and a loving husband and father. Slowly, though, he begins to become forgetful and even shout "at people when/ you were never the kind of guy/ to yell before." Starting in 1999, ZJ leads readers on a journey through memories of a time before his father's persistent headaches kept him from playing football, when he still loved music and wrote songs with ZJ, and into the "ever after," when he sometimes forgets even ZJ's name. Eloquent prose poetry creates a moving narrative that reveals the grief of a child trying to understand why his father has changed and why nothing can be done. An ardent account of the multitudes of losses experienced by those who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy and its effects on their families, ZJ's doleful tale unveils the intense nostalgia and hope one can feel despite realizing that sometimes what is lost can never be regained. Ages 10–up. (Sept.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4 Up—What happens after all your dreams come true? ZJ's dad always wanted to be a football player. Through hard work, he achieved his goal and became an NFL player and hero to many. Unfortunately, his football fame came with a price. Now he experiences debilitating headaches, mood swings, and forgetfulness brought on by one too many concussions. ZJ remembers a time before his father changed; when his father would laugh, play with him and his friends, and support him with his music. That was the before—now he lives in the after. All ZJ has is memories of the incredible man his father was, and the fear of the unknown issue causing his father's problems. Set in the early 2000s when concussion research on NFL players was at its inception, Woodson's latest novel in verse conveys that not all success stories have a fairy-tale ending. Readers will feel an immediate connection to ZJ and his group of authentic, complex friends and family. The idea of showing the dark side of fame through the experiences of a young family member is a unique perspective that will resonate with readers of all ages. ZJ's story will stay with the audience long after the last page is read. VERDICT A first choice for all collections. A unique take on sports and fame told from an unexpected perspective, and another incredible read delivered by Woodson.—Ashley Leffel, Griffin M.S., Frisco, TX Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The son of an idolized pro-football star begins noticing the contrast between his father’s angry, forgetful behavior and his superhero reputation before adjusting to a new reality involving difficult symptoms stemming from his father’s numerous head injuries. By the National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming. Simultaneous eBook.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

ZJ's friends Ollie, Darry and Daniel help him cope when his father, a beloved professional football player, suffers severe headaches and memory loss that spell the end of his career.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

WINNER OF THE NAACP IMAGE AWARDWINNER OF THE CORETTA SCOTT KING AUTHOR AWARD National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson's stirring novel-in-verse explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed and the cost of professional sports on Black bodies.For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone's hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he's as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ's house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ's mom explains it's because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that--but it doesn't make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can't remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?