“Try your best”; “Winning isn’t everything”; “There’s no I in teamwork”; “Be a good sport”—these are not the lessons that Maxwell presents here. Instead, he lays out a loose framework for how to win and, when that fails, how to turn losses into learning experiences.
In rhyming verse that never falters (though is sometimes awkwardly phrased), Maxwell tells the story of two siblings who love to win. Their chosen sport is Woggleball, which appears to be a hybrid of lacrosse, basketball, and quidditch. But their first loss has Wendy giving up hope and Wade grumpy and discouraged. Their grandfather has some advice for them: “think positive thoughts,” “winning takes effort,” “win in small steps,” “stretch to get better.” Though none of Papa’s advice is very specific, Wendy and Wade take it to heart. They don’t win their next game but celebrate their marked improvement and practice hard, and the third game is a win. The text concludes with a note from Papa and an author’s note to parents that focus on the importance of helping kids stay positive and learn from their mistakes. Björkman’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations are bright and cartoony, full of exaggerated expressions and motion lines, depicting Wade and Wendy as white, with multiethnic teammates.
While Maxwell’s advice about winning is pretty general, his message to turn failures into opportunities to learn is a good one; here’s hoping kids hear it in Wendy and Wade’s tale. (Picture book. 4-8)