Rocket Man

204p. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Oct. 2014. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9780889954946.
Gr 5–8—Eighth grader Bob O'Neill is devastated when he gets assigned to the Division 2 basketball team again: he thought for sure this was the year he would finally make Division 1. Between his dad recently being diagnosed with brain cancer, and school bully Roy constantly hassling him, Bob feels like his best defense is to stay invisible. But his friend Maria is sticking by him, and with encouragement from her and from his coach, he slowly starts to realize there are options other than going through life unnoticed. Tired of feeling powerless about the "C Monster" that is attacking his dad's health, Bob comes up with a fundraising idea: the alum from his dad's basketball-playing days take on the current team Oakdale High team. Maria and Bob's older brother help organize the event, and Hoop Heroes 4 Health quickly gathers steam, especially when one of Oakdale's alumni who went on to play for the NBA agrees to come back to town for the game. Bob is getting a little D1 playtime, and when Roy is sent to juvenile detention for a few weeks for a prank on some young kids, Bob moves up to D1 and his confidence continues to soar. Roy returns before the big game, and while he and Bob don't become close friends, they are able to appreciate each other on the court. Bob is a likable, if overly earnest, protagonist. The book's brevity pages may appeal to reluctant readers, although the dialogue has a distinct after-school special feel. The cover, which features a ball swishing through the net, may be a bit misleading since the sports action in the book is minimal.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

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