From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Danny is a basketball fanatic. He is smart, talented, fast, and dedicated, but short. When he fails to make the seventh-grade travel team, he also fails to follow in the footsteps of his legendary father, Richie Walker, who led his own 12-year-old team to win the nationals and whose career was tragically ended by a car accident. Danny, who lives with his warm and supportive mom, has a somewhat stilted relationship with his less-reliable father. Danny did not make the squad because of the machinations of Richie's childhood nemesis, Mr. Ross, a controlling man who is determined to build a winning team. Although this text lacks only the stage directions and music cues to make the transition to the small screen as a Hallmark special, it really is a fun book for sports fans. Danny and the others cut from the travel team predictably form their own squad, coached by his father who battles alcoholism (and another car accident!) to lead them, with Danny's leadership, to the climactic game against their arch rivals. Although the kids compare themselves to the Bad News Bears, they are strictly old-school, harkening back to Stephen W. Meader's Sparkplug of the Hornets
(Harcourt, 1968; o.p.). There's even a sweetly innocent romance with a wise-beyond-her-years girl who uses IM/chat to provide Danny with support just when he needs it most. A round-ball heart-warmer.–Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
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Gr. 6-8. Danny Walker is crushed when he doesn't make the Vikings, the seventh-grade basketball team. He is told that he is too short, but he suspects that the real reason has something to do with the bad blood between his divorced father (a former NBA star whose career was cut short by a car accident) and Mr. Ross, the father of the team's best player. Then Danny's father announces that he is starting his own youth team, but unexpected setbacks sideline his dad and the team until Danny steps in and coaches the team himself. Some readers may find that the story drags at times, and sports cliches fill the final pages. Still, Lupica creates a sports novel that is rich in details; this is one of the few novels about basketball, for example, that actually mentions zone defenses rather than the perennial one-on-one scenes in most basketball novels. Many fans of sports fiction will like this. Todd MorningCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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