Review: Cleveland Wins a Championship by Jeff Attinella, Illustrated by Steve Madden

★★★★ Cleveland Wins a Championship by Jeff Attinella

Jeff Attinella’s children’s book, Cleveland Wins a Championship: The Story of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, gives its readers a great sports story with drawings that jump off the page, thanks to the considerable talents of illustrator Steve Madden.

Attinella tells the story not only of the Cavaliers, but down-on-their-luck Cleveland sports fans, who never seem to catch a break. In spirited rhyming prose, it tells the story of hometown hero LeBron James, from his early years with the Cavs, his heartbreaking departure, and his triumphant return. As he’s the most popular player in basketball, this is a book that will appeal to all young basketball fans, whoever they root for.

Taking a long route to their eventual championship, the Cleveland Cavaliers become the 2016 World Champions, finally ending a very long dry streak, not just for the Cavaliers, but for the city of Cleveland.

On to the Finals, against a familiar face,
the Warriors were waiting, on a record-setting pace.
The most wins of all time, the best regular season ever,
but the King was ready to prove that the Cavs were better.

Cleveland Wins a Championship is an inspiring story about perseverance, as even though LeBron James is considered the best basketball player in the world, it took a look a long time for him to win a championship for his hometown. Attinella also emphasizes the importance of teamwork, an important aspect in team sports that’s sometimes overshadowed by individual superstars. The messages of never giving up and never losing hope are showcased throughout the book. These are fundamentally important messages for young readers to learn at an early age and the author gets his message across on every page.

Some of the language and descriptions may be a bit too complex for some younger readers. Adult basketball fans will surely understand the references, but some of them will be over a child’s head – for instance, casually mentioning “Dan Gilbert,” the owner of the Cavs, but not identifying him as such. Still, this could be part of the fun for parents and kids, as it can lead to discussion not just about the game itself, but what goes on behind the scenes. In other words, the book may be best suited to kids who are already fans and understand the ins and outs of the game, as some of the story is a bit complex for very young readers.

Regardless of this issue, the illustrations are such a feast for the eyes that kids will want to keep returning to the book. Madden’s interpretation of Attinella’s text is spot on, using a combination of tongue-in-cheek caricatures and cartooning that is both expressive and entertaining for children and adults alike. Each illustration has an effective use of color, shading, and comical facial features, so small details in each illustration stand out, giving kids a chance to linger on every page.

Cleveland Wins a Championship is entertaining, informative, and delivers a positive message, an ideal trifecta in children’s storytelling.

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