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From the Mason Dixon series, volume 3

by Claudia Mills & illustrated by Guy Francis

Age Range: 8 - 11

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86875-7
Publisher: Knopf

Fourth grader Mason Dixon, in his third series outing, earnestly stumbles from one potential disaster to another, many involving his total basketball ineptitude.

First, best friend Brody convinces him to join a basketball team at the Y, fine for athletic and scrappy Brody but not so great for the more clumsy, “I’m not what you would call a sports person” Mason. Then his father becomes the coach of the team—a situation rife with unlimited embarrassment potential. The class bully, the very athletic Dunk, joins another Y team, meaning they’ll have to play against each other. And finally, a lady who hates dogs moves in right next door, and Mason and Brody have to deal with her constant vigilance as she tries to catch them letting three-legged Dog into her yard. Mason encounters believable situations enhanced by a fast-paced third-person narration that effectively captures his grade-school perspective. Non-athletic kids will recognize his concerns and fully sympathize with his plight. Other characters are sufficiently sketched to add a little depth. If most of the numerous, rather superficial issues are resolved ever-so-readily, and just the way readers would wish, well, who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Altogether, this is an amusing if undemanding account of the typical fourth-grade problems the athletically ungifted face as they make their way through school. (Fiction. 8-11)