Summary: Frustrated by changes at home and his Gran’s mounting confusion, Calvin turns to his yo-yo tricks to find some control and satisfaction in his life. He starts performing in downtown Toronto, soaking up the attention from audience members, and things are going well when one man even gives him money. But then his classmate Rozelle decides to become his manager, labelling him as the Yo-Yo Prophet and claiming that he can see the future when he does his yo-yo performances. When the predictions come true, Calvin begins to believe in his own powers, until everything beings to unravel and he finds out the true source of his abilities. Feeling like a fraud and dealing with his Gran’s hospitalization, Calvin needs some time to regain his confidence after the backlash that follows.
Number of Pages: 237
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Today was my second time reading Karen Krossing’s The Yo-Yo Prophet, and I loved it just as much as when I read it the first time. Firstly, it’s a great summer read. Calvin is at the end of his grade nine year when he starts performing his yo-yo tricks on the street for others to see. Krossing’s writing hums with the arrival of summer and the freedom it brings as Calvin starts upping the number of his shows, and the summer crowds in Toronto are there to watch him.
Calvin is a character worthy of respect who has had to grow up a bit faster than his friends since his mother died and his father went away. He lives with his Gran but has had to be the adult when her health starts to falter. Despite these serious themes, Calvin’s story is ultimately about a young man coming into his own, realising his talents and discovering the joy of being appreciated for them. He blossoms throughout the story, and isn’t vengeful when Rozelle’s management style leads things astray for a bit. Eventually he has to realise that he only needs to be himself, and doesn’t need a gimmick to entice others to watch his yo-yo tricks.
The Yo-Yo Prophet is one of my favourite teen books set in Toronto, because it truly captures the city’s joie-de-vive. At times, Toronto is a city where anything can happen, and it is easy to picture Calvin’s story unfolding on the city streets.
I love Krossing’s style of writing. The way she uses words and how everything is vibrant and well-stated creates clear pictures in her reader’s mind. Some of my Memorable Quotes are simply because I love how she puts things. Krossing is able to capture Calvin’s love of yo-yo tricks on a visceral level, and even though I have little experience with a yo-yo myself, I felt Calvin’s profound satisfaction at being able to complete the tricks and put on a show for his audiences. Krossing is a wonderful story-teller and I can’t wait to read more of her books.
“When I feel stronger, I do ten reach-for-the-moons. Perfectly. My body’s starting to hum along with the yo-yo. I’m doing it, and people are coming to watch. I steal glimpses at the skateboarder, his board tucked under one arm; the mother with the stroller, the baby sucking her thumb and following the yo-yo with her eyes; a group of kids who are maybe eleven years old; a man smoking a cigarette. All watching me. And no pigeons in sight.
I’m smooth. In the groove. I walk-the-dog, letting the yo-yo run along the bench like a dog on a leash. I throw another sleeper, bringing the dog behind my legs to walk through them. I put my yo-yo hand on my hip. I would say, ‘Jump through the hoop, Rover,’ but I don’t want to jinx myself by trying to talk. I tug the yo-yo to make it leap up from behind and through the hoop made by my arm.
‘Cool!’ one kid says. ‘Do it again.’
I smile. Warmth fills my chest. My hands guide the yo-yo through the tricks. I’m a lion tamer dominating a wild beast. It’s awesome. Powerful.” – Calvin from The Yo-Yo Prophet by Karen Krossing, page 23
“Black Magic conjures a slew of master-level tricks that rage against me. Double suicide. Reverse trapeze whip. Kamikaze. Superman. Tricks I can’t even follow with my eyes.
He starts into a ladder escape, popping the yo-yo in and out of a triangle formation in the string so fast that gold sparks seem to shoot from his yo-yo.” – Calvin from The Yo-Yo Prophet by Karen Krossing, page 172
“The rain batters the hospital window and runs down the glass. Through the rippling water, I stare out at the night. Car headlights flash and then streak away. Thunder growls across the starless sky. Streetlights reflect in the puddles.” – from The Yo-Yo Prophet by Karen Krossing, page 187
“‘Queen Elizabeth the Second.’ Her nose whistles as she exhales. ‘She’s reigned for so long and so well through so many changes.’ She gets a faraway look. ‘I always wanted to be queen, ever since I was a little girl. Although I was queen, in a way. Queen of my shop.’
‘I know you were,’ I say.
‘It wasn’t much, but it was mine to reign over, no matter what.’ She sighs. ‘Now I’m only the queen of myself. But that’s enough.’ She lifts her head and shoulders off the pillow, her neck muscles straining. ‘No illness is going to reign over me.’
I hope not. I shut my eyes briefly and try not to think about Gran with cancer. ‘That’s a good attitude.’ I try to sound positive.
‘Of course it is.’ She collapses back against the pillows, obviously exhausted. ‘We can’t control the world, but we can reign over our own little piece of it.’ She grips my hand. ‘Maybe you’re not a prophet,’ she pauses, ‘but you are good with a yo-yo.'” – Conversation between Gran and Calvin from The Yo-Yo Prophet by Karen Krossing, pages 198-199