An 11-year-old elite hockey player struggles with multiple real-world issues while sidelined from pursuing his dream of playing in the NHL.
Conor MacRae, who is half-white, half-Japanese, and wise beyond his years, lives with his dad, Keith, a white cop, and his dog, Sinbad. Conor’s mom died many years ago, and he is estranged from his Japanese grandparents. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, the treatments are so costly that Conor cuts back on ice time to help save money. The list of adult responsibilities that Conor manages is formidable for such a young boy, and the more time he spends off the ice, the more he notices the tougher parts of life. Kadohata weaves a parallel between Sinbad’s cancer and a concussion Conor suffers in the second half of the book, with boy and dog functioning at less than 100 percent. The dog is not only companion and protector, but a beloved comfort in a tough world, a relationship as tenderly realized as that between Conor and his dad. The Korean traditions of his best friend, Jae-won, highlight Conor’s distance from his Japanese heritage. As the season progresses, Conor grows in maturity and strength, learning more from mistakes than successes. Strong readers will enjoy a robust identity story that takes an unvarnished look at life. Zorat’s chapter-head illustrations help set the tone.
Best for dog lovers, hockey fans, and elite athletes. (Fiction. 10-14)