Gr 5–8—Eighth grade soccer star Nick Hall is doing his best to stay penalty-free in the game of life and on the field. He has two goals: eat, live, and breathe soccer and score a girlfriend. Unfortunately, his world flips upside down. Nick's parents are getting divorced, an emergency appendectomy removes him from the Dallas Cup roster, and a pair of "pit-bull mean" twins place Nick in their crosshairs. Nick's father, an author and linguistics professor with chronic verbomania, has a goal for him, too—reading regularly from his dictionary of weird and wonderful words. This frustrates Nick to the point of declaring he hates words, yet, ultimately, words help deflect the bullies' attack and get the girl. Alexander's spare text creates a rich, emotionally charged novel in verse about the pendulum moments in a young teen's life. The author's narration, from poignant pauses to a crescendo scoring kick, lifts the words off the page. VERDICT The audio is worthy of first selection, but it fails to capture the powerful visual effect of verse on the page. Pairing the text with audio would be a sound investment for language arts classes. ["Authentic characters and amusing situations abound, making this story one that will be welcomed by readers of all levels": SLJ 3/16 review of the HMH book.]—Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH

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