March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: Muckers

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nullWALLACE, Sandra Neil. Muckers. 288p. Knopf. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375867545; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375967542; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780307982384.
Gr 8 Up–Based on the true story of a 1950 scrappy high school football team out of Jerome, Arizona, this novel is about an underdog victory. Felix “Red” O’Sullivan and his friends have grown up in the copper-mining town of Hatley, but the ore has depleted over the years. The town has become so small that Hatley High will be closing at the end of the year and students will begin attending school with their Cottonville rivals. The Muckers football team is the smallest in the state, but Coach Hansen and his players are determined to make their final year one that the whole town will remember. What they don’t have in brawn, they make up for in sheer toughness. While the outcome of the state championship is no surprise, the novel’s strength lies in the development of its characters, especially Red, who is dealing with the loss of his football-champion brother during World War II and his mother’s resulting breakdown. Red also has to fight his town’s prejudice when he wants to date the sister of his best friend, a Mexican American. Clips from the local paper will broaden readers’ perspectives on both the financial straits that the town is in and the McCarthyism that insidiously threatens the townspeople’s cohesion. While the large cast of characters can be hard to keep track of, fans of H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights (Addison-Wesley, 1990) and other football histories will appreciate this inspiring tale.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA