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Young Adult Fiction Alternative Family

The Yo-Yo Prophet

by (author) Karen Krossing

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
Alternative Family, Friendship, Bullying
Recommended Age
Recommended Grade
8 to 12
Recommended Reading age
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Calvin is the smallest guy in his high school, and a perfect target for Rozelle and her girl gang. His mother is dead, his father is long gone and his only remaining relative, his grandmother, is getting too sick to run her dry cleaning business. The only time Calvin feels in control is when he's working his yo-yo. When he takes up street performing, Rozelle demands a cut and insists on being his manager. To get media attention, she markets him as a yo-yo genius who can predict the future, dubbing him the "Yo-Yo Prophet." Calvin begins to believe his own hype, but as Gran's condition deteriorates, he realizes that it will take more than fame and adulation to keep his family intact.

About the author

Karen Krossing grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, with a family who loved to read. What could she do but read, too? Karen began to create stories when she was eight, and she continued this habit by writing poetry in high school. By then she was hooked on books, so she studied English at university then became a book editor and a technical writer. After Karen had kids, she began writing fiction for children and teens.

Karen uses writing to understand the world around her. In Take The Stairs, which was nominated for the Ontario Library Association White Pine Award, she writes about turning adversity into opportunity through the troubled lives of inner-city teens. In Pure, her latest novel, she explores sticky ethical questions about genetic engineering that today's teens will have to face in their lifetimes.

Karen is a writing instructor at Centennial College and she teaches an after-school writing program for kids and teens through Pegasus Studios in Toronto. She led workshops at the 2003 Canadian Children's Book Camp in Toronto and was on tour with TD Canadian Children's Book Week in 2005. Karen regularly conducts writing workshops and book talks at Canadian schools.

For a detailed interview with Karen, go to For contact information, please visit

Karen Krossing's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Best Books
  • Short-listed, CYBIL Award nominee

Excerpt: The Yo-Yo Prophet (by (author) Karen Krossing)

I can't resist tossing a few simple tricks—rock the baby, elevator, tidal wave. My hands whir, my arms loosen up. I've only practiced at home, but this feels pretty fine. I take up more of the sidewalk. People weave around me, staying clear of the yo-yo as it extends and then glides back. There's only me and the yo-yo working with the noise and confusion of the street corner.

Editorial Reviews

"Krossing's...depictions of the many pressures Calvin is under, as well as his relationship with his grandmother, feel especially intimate and authentic. It's a clever and quiet coming-of-age story about developing confidence and doing what's right."

Publishers Weekly

"Krossing's light, straightforward style presents the 'big' issues of bullying, self-discovery and loyalty in accessible and inspiring ways. Watching Calvin cope with each of these issues invokes empathy and instruction. Her description of yo-yo tricks is exceptionally strong."

Resource Links

"So many reasons to love The Yo-Yo Prophet: the way the main characters change throughout the book (especially the main character, Calvin, who so desperately wants to be noticed and feel special), the tension and excitement of Calvin's yo-yo performances and competitions, how Calvin reacts to and eventually finds a way to cope with bullying, how he deals with his missing father and the declining health of his grandmother. Uplifting and hopeful ending without being clichéd. I was also intrigued by the description of the yo-yo feats! This book might even lure young people away from their computer games to give a non-digital hobby a try."

"Krossing weaves a well-paced coming-of-age story with a diverse set of finely drawn characters. Calvin's awkwardness, Rozelle's brash style and her friend Sasha's jealousy feel authentic, and Calvin's attempts to remain true to himself while negotiating high school and the larger adult world will ring true for many young readers. Readers will root for Calvin as he tries to hold his family together while making difficult choices and will be rewarded by a satisfyingly happy ending. Best of all, Krossing's descriptions of yo-yo tricks are vivid and tangible enough to make some readers reach for a yo-yo of their own."

Canadian Children's Book News

"My son LOVED The Yo-Yo Prophet and read it in record time. He even started playing with his yo-yo again and then recently made one. He highly recommends this book to his friends. It has initiated him reading every night at bedtime again and I am truly grateful for that."

Lynn E., Parent

"Krossing has created a fresh and engaging story that [is] intricately crafted, yet easy to follow. Of particular note were the different terms and descriptions for yo-yo tricks and techniques...The success of The Yo-Yo Prophet lies in its innovative plotline coupled with superior character development. The reader is privy to Calvin's fascination and aptness with a yo-yo, adding an enhanced level of playfulness to this highly enjoyable read. Highly Recommended."

CM Magazine

"The title and cover art will attract middle school boys to The Yo-Yo Prophet...[and they] might be taken with yo-yos. Give it a try."


"Krossing paints vivid and believable portraits of her main characters and keeps the action flowing, especially in her descriptions of Calvin's performances. She manages to convey the intricacies of the tricks and Calvin's joy in mastering them while moving the narrative briskly along. It all adds up to a captivating and believable portrait of a young boy coming of age."

Kirkus Reviews

"A great fluid read about the importance of being comfortable in one's own skin, putting family first over profit, sticking up for yourself, and recognizing true friends versus the phonies. I thoroughly enjoyed all the values, mentioned above, that were touched on throughout the story...The reader will be quite satisfied if he/she is looking for a happy, but realistic ending."

Fremont Middle School

"Calvin's personal growth as he overcomes his shyness with his peers and his estranged father is heartwarming...The story is a nicely paced, enjoyable read, and most kids will find themselves compelled to finish it."

School Library Journal

"A very quick and fascinating read with the yo-yo tricks moving the action along nicely."

Plano Teens Connect blog

"Calvin is a likable character who is struggling to keep it together under the mounting stress, the relationship between Calvin and his grandmother is realistically portrayed, and the eventual resolution with Calvin's dad feels authentic. Meanwhile, the yo-yoing scenes are surprisingly vivid and keep the action moving. Readers will root for Calvin to stand up to Rozelle and triumph in the end."


"Krossing's use of terse, but vivid imagery depicts a torn young man struggling to fit into a teenage world unaware of the larger problems of his life at home. The Yo-Yo Prophet takes the reader along Calvin's journey, showing how a normal kid's fears, inadequacies, and defeats lead him to grow and make decisions that enable him to become more of the young man he wants to be."

The Alan Review

"The urban characters are diverse and the relationships feel authentic. Krossing's descriptions of bullying are powerful. Students 7th grade and up will connect with this story about finding our real family and owning our actions."

Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group

"I found myself glued to this story...[It's] light and kind of sweet but it moves along at a good pace. I really enjoyed the incorporation of 'old school' yo-yo tricks and how Calvin uses that to overcome a difficult stage in his life. The book shows that circumstances can leave you spinning on the end of a string, but somehow Calvin manages to hone his skills and grow up a little, too."

The Mable's Fables blog

Librarian Reviews

The Yo-Yo Prophet

Fourteen-year-old Calvin Layne’s life is anything but ideal. Nicknamed Lo-Cal for his small stature, he is an easy target for high school bullies. With his mother dead and his father AWOL, he lives with his ailing grandmother above her dry-cleaning store. As his fragile existence is increasingly threatened by his grandmother’s failing health and the impending sale of their home and store, Calvin finds solace and a sense of control over his life in practising yo-yo tricks. One day Calvin yo-yos on a street corner and discovers the thrill of public performance. I’m in the zone. The crowd and the street are vanishing, leaving a calm circle of light and heat around me…It’s a dream.

Calvin rehearses a routine but at his first performance he is seen by a gang of girls from school whose leader, Rozelle, demands a cut of his earnings in return for becoming his manager. Unable to resist her, Calvin is swept up in her scheme to create hype by claiming that while yo-yoing he can predict the future. Calvin’s life begins to spiral out of control as his grandmother’s health deteriorates, the threat of homelessness looms, and Calvin himself falls victim to his own yo-yo prophesying.

Krossing weaves a well-paced coming-of-age story with a diverse set of finely drawn characters. Calvin’s awkwardness, Rozelle’s brash style and her friend Sasha’s jealousy feel authentic, and Calvin’s attempts to remain true to himself while negotiating high school and the larger adult world will ring true for many young readers. Readers will root for Calvin as he tries to hold his family together while making difficult choices and will be rewarded by a satisfyingly happy ending. Best of all, Krossing’s descriptions of yo-yo tricks are vivid and tangible enough to make some readers reach for a yo-yo of their own.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2012. Volume 35 No. 2.

The Yo-Yo Prophet

Calvin’s mother is dead, and his father has let him down time and time again. He lives with his grandmother who is having a difficult time running her dry-cleaning shop. When Calvin discovers how good he is at working a yo-yo, he takes up street performing and becomes an overnight sensation.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

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