Morse's illustrations are mesmerizing. I looked and relooked at the wildly exagerrated figure drawings of the gym class. The crowded compositions ensure overlapping of huge hands, lanky arms and too-long necks, and mustachioed heads. The feeling of chaos told about in the text is told much further and better in the pictures. It's one of the few complementary illustration sets I've read in the past weeks (the complementary relationship to the text is true for many, but not all of the pictures). Morse's style of painting faces is incredible, with a signature overplaying of flesh around eyes that seems to put each figure's emotions at the surface; likewise with his treatment of mouths and teeth. These facial details are so noticeable.
The color scheme was extremely unusual, and the fact the boys were likely wearing gym uniforms made the duotone style feel realistic. The hilarious moment in the illustration is that the setting is in the 1890s, but when James Naismith had a flashback, Morse gave it the 'black and white = the past' treatment (almost--he has plenty of blue and green in these 'b/w' paintings). Great semiotics! I knew exactly what it was doing.
The text is plain and direct and presents the story clearly. The text has little of the tone and emotion in Morse's illustrations. The key skill in the writing here is in the selection of the specific episodes to storyboard the book. I wonder what the process for writing was, and how much Coy used a storyboard to sense the pace of how the page turns would work?
Key moment in the text worth noting: Arranging games for women, and then seeing women's competitive nature come to the surface during the game. It was a great illustration moment to see the young woman with her fist balled up and shaking it in Naismith's face.