Books by Betty Hicks

Released: Jan. 22, 2013

"A satisfying ending neatly wraps up this warm story, and Hatke's occasional line drawings will add appeal for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)"
Animal-obsessed Ellis Coffey hopes his pet woolly caterpillar will win the race at the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival and its $1,000 purse so he can pay the deductible for his father's back surgery. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2008

This first in a series of sports-oriented books uses basketball to explore such topics as sportsmanship and friendship. Henry and five friends, three boys and two girls, are challenged to a basketball game by a sketchy group of players calling themselves the Tigers. Turns out the Tigers cheat, but the newly dubbed Bats win anyway; their troubles with the Tigers don't end there, however. In the second game Henry hogs the ball in an effort to compensate for the Tigers' new player, Teen Boy, but the Bats' loss makes him the goat. In the second book in the series, Goof-Off Goalie (ISBN: 978-1-59643-244-4), the same friends play team soccer and this time Henry's friend Goose takes the fore. He thinks being goalie will be a cinch. Turns out it isn't so easy—it takes practice and good friends. With McCauley's expressive spot illustrations accompanying Hicks's breezily simple text, this series will be a great stepping-stone for reluctant or new readers, easily introducing topical issues with its blend of humor and sports. A real score! (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
GET REAL by Betty Hicks
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Jil [sic], an adopted eighth-grader, wonders about her biological or "real" mom, while Dez, her best friend and the narrator of the story, wonders how a neatnik like her ended up in a family of slobs. In Hicks's perceptive, tender tale about what it really means to be a family, Jil makes contact with her birth mother and genetic half-sister, while Dez struggles to convince her poetry-spouting father and swamp-loving mother that she's responsible enough to stick with her decisions. Although Jil's experience with her biological family turns out to be more bitter than sweet, much of the narrative is laugh-out-loud funny, especially Dez's interaction with her professor father and scientist mother, a woman who "watches the weather channel like it's Sex and the City." Poignant and playful meld seamlessly, and the life lesson—that parents are the people who go out of their way to take care of you—is germane to adopted and biological children alike. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
OUT OF ORDER by Betty Hicks
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

When a family doubles in number, it's like shuffling a deck of cards to see who comes out on top. When Lily (11) and Parker's (9) mom marries Frank, Eric (15) and V's (13) dad, the pecking order changes for them all. Told in four voices, each set in a different type style, each kid expresses his or her feelings and frustrations. Fireworks erupt when someone breaks Lily's single sunflower. All fingers point to V who insists she didn't do it. In revenge, Lily kills V's tomato plants that she had planned to sell to send soccer balls to Iraqi kids. A rescue plan to raise money for V's project with a Rock-Scissors-Paper tournament becomes the uniting force. The death of Eric and V's brother, Parker's plan to sell Twinkies stuffed with cicadas, gothic Eric's obsession with Tolstoy and Lily's analysis of sibling traits according to oldest/youngest are all part of this engaging puzzle of four stepsiblings trying to sort out the pieces of new family relationships. Clever cover, real-life kids, humor and inventive plot detail make this a first-rate read, guaranteed to spur games of RSP. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
BUSTED! by Betty Hicks
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

A slightly naïve, but very sympathetic young hero finds himself trapped in a hilarious nightmare of being "busted." Twelve-year-old Stuart Ellis loves playing soccer for the Oak Park Warriors and working on his dragon Web site. But the only dragon in Stuart's life is his overly protective widowed mother, who seems obsessed with "making rules and catching him breaking them." Busted for the third time in three weeks, Stuart is grounded, computer privileges revoked, and video games put off-limits. As his social life evaporates, Stuart frantically consults his savvy best girl-pal Mack, who suggests his mother needs the distraction of a boyfriend. When his mother threatens to take away soccer, a desperate Stuart attempts a bit of misguided match-making between her and his soccer coach and ends up nearly alienating everyone he cares about, including Mack and the entire soccer team. Brimming with soccer scenes and humor, this modern family story rings true. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
ANIMAL HOUSE & IZ by Betty Hicks
Released: April 1, 2003

Elizabeth, who now prefers to be called Iz, loves the chaotic life of her blended stepfamily: one part perfection—her chic, traveling mom; two parts casual—her laidback dad and stepmom Alice; three parts crazy—her three stepbrothers, Logan and the twins Joey and Jack. Her dad and Alice don't even mind the kids' assortment of quirky pets: cricket, chameleon, hedgehog, praying mantises, and turtle. But the pet the kids really want is a dog. They initiate the GAD Plan (Get a Dog), which involves adding weird animals and insects to the existing pets and then by losing control of them, hoping to convince their parents that one measly dog would be easier. The Plan itself quickly gets out of control when a hermit crab named Captain Hook and a parrot named Elvis join the gang (Elvis will only poop on top of Iz's bedside lamp, on the light bulb). Further complications erupt when Iz's mom decides to stop traveling to be at home so Iz can come live with her. Information about insects and animals are cleverly worked into the story, as are classic children's books. Breezy, contemporary dialogue rings true; Iz's guilt over the hedgehog dying and one of the twins being hospitalized feels real (from parrot bacteria); and the chapter titled "Exploding Bird Poop" is ripe for booktalk. How terrific to have a happy stepfamily, wholesome kids, caring parents, and a nicely resolved ending. The Simpsons-looking kids on the cover will attract attention to this upbeat, humorous, and genuine family story. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
I SMELL LIKE HAM by Betty Hicks
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

Eleven-year-old Nick has to go to school smelling like the cloves his new stepmother puts into the shampoo, and that's just the beginning in this humorous yet true-to-life portrayal of family blending and sixth-grade angst. Nick's mom died two years ago, and even though he's always wanted a baby brother, he's less than thrilled when his Dad marries Miriam and she and nerdy third-grader Dwayne move in. Concurrently, Nick's trying to figure out his place on the basketball team (teammate Carson Jones seems to have locked up the starting point-guard position) and among his own friends. Not only is Carson a threat on the court, he challenges Nick and even Dwayne to try cigarettes on Halloween and lies to the coach about missing a practice. Caught between his newfound responsibility for Dwayne and his own attempts to fit in despite his anger at his friends, Nick must finesse many familiar scenarios: peer pressure, competing for a spot on the team, and negotiating difficult family relations. Nick is a realistic, likable "tween," neither too squeaky-clean nor an unregenerate troublemaker. First-novelist Hicks gives Dwayne, Miriam, and Dad enough dimensions to avoid creating the familiar stereotypes of the pesky baby brother, evil stepmother, and out-of-touch Dad, which is refreshing. The turning point for Nick nicely completes the story: Dwayne disappears, and Nick figures out where he is. Especially satisfying is the beginning of a real relationship between the two boys, forged while they're on their own until Nick's able to convince Dwayne to come home. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >