An enjoyable if unfocused walk through football history.



From the Spectacular Sports series

A hodgepodge of football history pivots around the controversial ranking systems.

As long as there are fans, there will be unhappiness with the final rankings in football’s polls. But Doeden is certainly right on two points: the Bowl Championship Series was hopelessly flawed by positive point differentials, and the new College Football Playoff looks likely to “crown a single, undisputed champ each season.” Yet the top spot still doesn’t guarantee a great game, just as many Super Bowls have been duds. Doeden senses this, and so his book wanders about somewhat, hitting on great title games but also taking a look into the evolution of the game—including safety concerns, then and now—and the building of dynasties, such as the strings put together by Alabama and Notre Dame. Doeden has fun with celebrated plays, highlighting perhaps the most famous of all: Roy “Wrong-Way” Riegels’ dash to the wrong end zone, incurring a two-point safety that proved to be the losing margin in the 1929 Rose Bowl. Doeden ends on two critical issues, both altogether unrelated to championships: the concern about brain injuries and the rules regarding player compensation. As Doeden notes, football is headed for some big changes, and not just in how the champ is crowned.

An enjoyable if unfocused walk through football history. (Nonfiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-1897-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty.


Sixteen-year-old Julio Ramirez Jr. dreams of being a junior Nacional and playing for Cuba against the best young players around the world.

Baseball is “practically a religion” in Cuba, and Julio’s father was like a Cuban god, an all-star pitcher for the Cuban National Team. Now, having defected, he’s a star for the Miami Marlins. But instead of pride, Julio feels resentment toward his father for abandoning his family to a life of poverty while he, the great El Fuego, lives the high life in Miami with his multimillion-dollar contract. Moreover, Julio’s baseball dreams may not come true: How can he be trusted to leave the country when his father defected; won’t he do the same? So Julio defects too, and in a tense and slightly comic scene, he drives to Florida in a green ’59 Buick that’s been converted into a boat. Julio’s reconciliation with his father is handled deftly in its poignant awkwardness, and baseball action is appropriately exciting, though the notion that Julio is allowed to hang out with his father during Game 7 of the World Series is seriously implausible. Volponi wisely shies away from a tidy, inspirational ending but does leave room for hope for reconciliation.

An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-78518-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A mediocre high school chess player discovers his perfectly ordinary father is a former grandmaster in this standard-issue father-son relationship story.

Daniel Pratzer has always been a jack-of-all-trades, master of none when it comes to athletics. “I had worked hard to become a decent baseball player…an acceptable soccer player…but I had never been great at any of them.” When he takes up chess as a way to make friends at his New Jersey private school, he is informed by his teammates that his accountant father, Morris W. Pratzer, used to be an internationally known chess champion. They urge Daniel to convince Morris to take part in a high-stakes New York City tournament along with them and their fathers. Stung by the fact that Morris never revealed his “checkered” past, Daniel angrily confronts him only to learn that his dad quit the game because the competition had released his incendiary temper and nearly cost him his life. But Morris decides to play the tournament anyway, and his famous rage re-emerges when he faces an old rival. In the predictable end, father and son learn valuable lessons about teamwork, honor and acceptance. Check. Checkmate. The paint-by-numbers plot and unimaginative dialogue are unlikely to encourage anyone but the most die-hard chess aficionado to finish this rote problem novel. (Fiction. 11-15)


Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-32771-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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