A crucial, necessary reminder: Sports should be fun!

RIVALS

This basketball saga critically redefines “love of the game.”

In Walthorne, middle school sports revolve around the storied rivalry between the Walthorne North Middle School Cougars and the Walthorne South Middle School Panthers. North is captained by point guard Austin Chambers, whose well-off parents provide him with everything he needs to succeed—in part because his father is a Penn State basketball legend. Things aren’t so rosy for Carter Haswell, captain of South. As far as his parents are concerned, basketball is his job, as an athletic scholarship could relieve financial strife. What could be a tale of haves and have-nots swerves, instead examining the pernicious effects poor judgment, vicarious living, and outright self-interest can have on the physical and mental well-beings of student athletes. Peer relationships cause problems: Austin pressures wounded teammate Clay to play a high-stakes game, exacerbating his injury. Best intentions go awry: Alfie Jenks, a die-hard hoops fan and aspiring journalist, learns the importance of oversight, diligence, and context as her reporting sparks scandals. Egocentricity reigns: Carter’s coach encourages him to cheat in class, leading to the player’s suspension and the coach’s resignation. When misconduct brings their season screeching to a halt, North and South settle their differences without adult interference. Most characters are White; racism and socio-economic status come in for critical evaluation.

A crucial, necessary reminder: Sports should be fun! (author’s note, reading list) (Sports fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4827-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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