FICTION

Love of the Game

978-0-31237-331-3.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3—6—Jackson's first day of middle school is rough. In a stereotypical beginning of underclassman woe, he is taken for both his lunch and his money when forced to sit in the back of the bus with the eighth graders. He endures the torment, looking forward to playing on the football team with his friends after school. It turns out that bullying is not the only problem that he and his friends will have to deal with. These sixth graders must persuade their soccer-playing chum's mother that football is safe, and Gig deals with his father being overseas in the war. Jackson is also coming to terms with the fact he and his mother will be moving in with her boyfriend and his daughters. The culminating experience of character growth occurs when he chooses to play defense because of his skill, even though his friends all play offense. The author tries to weave in meaningful messages about literacy through the "cool" librarian, but they often feel heavy-handed. Still, this realistic novel will attract kids who like a story told without any dressing up. Despite the title, actual sports action takes a backseat to a plot-driven story rich in contemporary social issues. When the author does get to describing a sports scene, however, it is rife with action and will draw readers back to the page.—Devin Burritt, Jackson Memorial Library, Tenants Harbor, ME
Jackson relates the many changes middle school brings for him and friends Gig, Isaac, and Diego. Sixth grade begins with school-bus bullying and tons of homework; nonetheless, the friends are determined to make the football team. They do, but the sports action is only one strand in the larger story of social adjustment. Appealing characters and brief chapters will keep readers engaged.

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