A boy and his wheelchair-basketball team try to salvage their season in sportswriter Ostler’s debut novel.
A year after losing his parents and the use of his legs in a car accident, 12-year-old Carlos Cooper reluctantly joins a wheelchair-basketball team at the encouragement of his guardians, his Mexican American maternal aunt and uncle. Formerly dubbed “Cooper the Hooper,” Carlos struggles with wheelchair basketball’s difficult new techniques…and with no longer being the star shooter. But soon, Carlos catches the Rollin’ Rats’ cooperative, competitive spirit—just as the mayor closes their run-down gym, jeopardizing their chances of reaching California’s state championship. Basketball fans will particularly enjoy Carlos’ play-by-play narration of challenging practices and intense games, but readers won’t need sports knowledge to root for Carlos as he and fellow teammate Mia—and unexpected allies—scheme to outwit the villainous Mayor Burns. The author realistically portrays Carlos’ adjustment to disability and loss, and Carlos’ increasing empathy is believable and thought-provoking. Bantering text messages highlight the team’s camaraderie, and Carlos’ bond with his tenacious aunt and uncle adds tenderness, humor, and some (italicized) Spanish words. His teammates’ disabilities range from paraplegia to limb difference; one member has autism as well as spinal bifida. Latinx Carlos is bicultural and probably biracial (his mom was Mexican and his dad was British) and has brown skin, and one teammate is black. Mia, who is white, has two moms.
A sports story that’s as heartwarming as it is action-packed. (Fiction. 8-12)