The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Moves Make the Man

The Moves Make the Man


Author: Bruce Brooks


Page Length: 252  


Reading Level: 8


Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jerome Foxworthy, an intelligent African American, spots Bix Rivers playing baseball one year prior to the composing of the story of Bix.  Bix catches his attention because Jerome has never seen anyone who has mastered the skill and art of baseball like Bix.

Jerome is the only black student attending the junior high school in his neighborhood.  Jerome’s first love is basketball and he goes to try-outs for the school team, but is not allowed to play because of his color. After Jerome’s mother is in an accident, Jerome decides to enroll in a home economics class so that he can cook for his brothers while his mother heals.  He discovers he is not the only male member of the class, Bix Rivers; the talented baseball player also belongs to the class.  The boys immediately bond and Jerome teaches Bix to play basketball in the evenings. 

As the boy’s relationship grows, Jerome learns that Bix cannot tolerate any form of lying, or “his definition” for lying. This intolerance for non-truths has caused significant repercussions in Bix’s life which Jerome tries to understand.

REVIEW: This is a well-written book that has great character development and descriptive writing.  The description of the game of basketball (p. 59), the reference of “white man’s disease” (p. 95), and Bix’s view of friendship (p.159) are examples of Brook’s excellent writing skills.  The bond of friendship between Bix and Jerome is one that young men can relate to, in that; males accept each other just as they are.  The boy’s both have family issues that are also common to the young teen-age male.  In addition, racial issues are a sub-plot that Jerome must deal with throughout the story. 

I think both boys and girls would enjoy this book because of the drama and conflict the characters encounter as they move through their first year of junior high   

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Conflict, Setting, Theme and Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: Slam, Learning the Game, The Boy Who Saved Baseball, Hardball


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

What Athletes Are Made Of

What Athletes Are Made Of

Author and Illustrator: Hanoch Piven and Sarah Thompson

Page Length: 34

Reading Level: 5.1

Genre: Biography

Career Connection: Professional Athletes

SUMMARY & REVIEW: This book is for the sports lover written by a sports lover.

We learn that Muhammad Ali had a “big mouth”, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar coached high school on an Apache reservation, Babe Ruth had a huge appetite, Jesse Owens proved Hitler wrong, Tiger Woods considers himself a “Cablinasian”, David Beckham once wore pink nail polish to match his girlfriends, and Pele played with a soccer ball made of a sock stuffed with newspapers. These are just a few facts that packed into this creative book filled with 23 mini-biographies of athletes. Each biography is 5-10 sentences long.

The first page provides the reader an introduction to why athletes and sports games are enjoyable to watch and respected. The author begins each mini biography with the following line:

“Athletes are made of…”

At the end of each biography, the author provides the reader with a “Did You Know” fact relating to either the athlete or his/her sport.

At the end of the book, a “Post-Game Recap” with statistics and career highlights of all the athletes is featured.  

The following athletes are highlighted in this book: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, David Beckham, Joe DiMaggio, Jeff Gordon, Wayne Gretzky, Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Diego Maradona, Joe Namath, Martina Navratilova, Jesse Owens, Pele, Babe Ruth, Michael Schumacher, Annika Sorenstam, Jim Thorpe, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

The sports represented in this book include basketball, tennis, boxing, cycling, soccer, baseball, racing, track and field, football, golf, pentathlon, and decathlon.

This is a very creative book. It not only provides the reader a clear and concise biography of each athlete, each individual is illustrated using traditional drawings as well as objects. For example, Tiger Woods’ eye brows are illustrated using “nails”. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s legs are illustrated using “rulers”. Lance Armstrong’s mouth is illustrated using a “rubber band”.

The only criticism I have with this book is that the majority of the athletes students may not recognize. This book may not be engaging for students if left to read on their own. However, providing insight into unfamiliar athletes provides the teacher and student an opportunity for new learning. The addition of mini-biographies will help students engage with the book as compared to other lengthier biographies. Students will most likely recognize Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

Students with a passion for art will enjoy this book. This would be a great book to share with art teachers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: art, biography, compare/contrast


RELATED BOOKS: What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven, Xtreme Sports Fast Track by Joe Layden, Amazing But True Sports Stories by Hollander

ART CONNECTIONS: (art work website of the author)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Millicent Min Girl Genius

Millicent Min Girl Genius

Author: Lisa Yee

Page Length: 248

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Millicent Min is eleven years old and is enrolling in her first college class.  She is a genius and has appeared on TV talk shows, made the Dean’s Honor Roll, and is about to begin her senior year in high school.  Millicent is very intelligent, but has no idea of how to make friends or even have a normal conversation.

Her mother forces her to join a volleyball team and through her grandmother’s friend, she is forced to begin peer tutoring for Sanford Wong, the dumbest athlete in school.  Millicent is close to her grandmother, Maddie, who is about to leave on an extended trip to Europe. With a hatred for sports, ignorant boys, and the departure of her grandmother, Millicent is dreading the summer.  She only looks forward to the poetry class she has enrolled in at the local college.

Millicent actually has no friends, but at volleyball practice, a new girl, Emily befriends her.  Excited that Emily likes her, Millicent hides the fact that she is a genius from Emily.  She is afraid that Emily will not like her if she is aware of how smart she is and her placement in high school. As the story continues, Emily meets Stanford, the incorrigible jock that Millicent tutors.  When Stanford and Emily are attracted to each other, the plot thickens as Stanford tries to hide his lack of intelligence and Millicent becomes the “third party” in the triangular friendship.

REVIEW: The book is a narrative told from Millicent’s point of view.  The character development is excellent and the relationships between the families and friends are very realistic.  Lisa Yee includes humor and sarcasm, in how Millicent views the people who are apart of her life. I enjoyed this book immensely and would suggest it especially for junior high and high school girls to read.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Compare/Contrast, Theme, and Characters

RELATED BOOKS: Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, Totally Emily Ebers


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Hoopster

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The Hoopster


Author: Alan Lawrence Sitomer


Page Length: 218


Reading Level: 6


Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Andre seems to have everything – an uncanny ability to shoot baskets, a great job at a magazine, and an awesome girlfriend. Andre is assigned the job of writing an article on racism. He begins to notice it everywhere he goes, even in his cousin Cedric’s skits. One night, Andre’s article gets written and he becomes a local celebrity; but, fame comes with a price. Race tensions are high in Andre’s town and his article is getting as much hate mail as fan mail. Andre’s own life is threatened. Will he ever reach his dreams of becoming a famous writer in the midst of so much hatred? What will reaching for his dreams cost him in the end?

REVIEW: This book has a decent story line and was actually able to include basketball without being totally focused on just the sport. As the matter of fact, this athlete has dreams of being a writer. He dates a Hispanic girl, his best friend is white, and he learns that his own father once changed his fate because of racist hatred. Faced with this knowledge and facing his own hate crime, Andre must decide if he too will enter into the cycle of violence or if he can follow a different path. Andre suffers tremendously because his views are outside the norm. The actions of the supremacist group leaves Andre emotionally and physically battered; yet, through it all, Andre prevails and continues to believe in himself and believe that he can change the racist views of the world.

This book had a basic plot and an easy story line to follow. This book would work well as a classroom read for students with a lower reading level.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, imagery, elements of plot, stereotypes

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: racist remarks, hate crime –  Andre is physically assaulted with the intent to permanently maim him, his father tells of a white man relieving himself on his boots and of being hit over the head with a bottle

RELATED BOOKS: Hip-Hop High School, Paulsen’s Nightjohn, Draper’s The Battle of Jericho, To Kill a Mockingbird, Richard Peck’s The River Between Us

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Dead Poets Society (1989), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

December 19, 2010


Hoops by Walter Dean Myers: Book Cover


Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 183

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

Career Connections: Professional Basketball Player

PLOT SUMMARY: Lonnie is about to finish high school when he is approached to play on a neighborhood basketball team in a tournament that will have college scouts attending.  Lonnie joins the team with hopes that he may actually receive a scholarship.  However, when Cal, the neighborhood wine-o shows up and says that he is the team coach, Lonnie’s hopes fade.

Cal challenges Lonnie to a three basket one-on-one pick up game and Lonnie learns that Cal does “have a game”.  Cal manages to get the team uniforms and trains them to work together as a team.  He is continually on Lonnie to do better, but Lonnie begins to like Cal. The bond between the two builds as they practice and the team competes.  Lonnie begins to think of Lonnie as a friend and father figure. 

But Cal has a past that haunts him and occasionally does not show up for practice and games. When Lonnie finds him, Cal confesses to him about why he quit playing basketball professionally.  The two form a bond but Cal again disappoints Lonnie and the team.  It is through Cal’s discreet actions that Lonnie learns not only the game of basketball but the game of life.

REVIEW: Myers depicts his love for basketball in this book about basketball on the streets of Harlem.  Boys of the African American race will like this as it is written in slang which makes the story more believable.  There is a lot of basketball action but the story’s theme focuses on the true game of life.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that are not content and age appropriate

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Generalizations. Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Night Hoops, Slam, Shooter


MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Hoop Dreams (1994), City Dump: The Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal (1994), Game Day (1999), Streetballers (2009), More than a Game (2009)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 30, 2009


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Author: Jan Cheripko

Page Length: 205

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Rat loves everything about basketball –except for the fact that he is disabled and feels that he can’t play the sport on the same level as his peers. He’s still a part of the team as the manager, but one day all of that changes. Rat witnesses something he wishes he hadn’t (or maybe he is glad that he could help – he really can’t decide). Coach has his hands all over one of the cheerleaders. Rat’s the only witness and he becomes caught in the crossfire. Will he tell the truth? Will the team treat him any differently if he “rats” on the coach? How far is he willing to go for a friend?

REVIEW: This book really packs in quite a few moral lessons and dilemmas. Rat is turned against by the basketball team because he tells the truth. No one will talk to him, he’s bullied and threatened, and he can’t even get his dad to see him for who he is. The new coach changes how Rat feels about himself and his relationships. We’re introduced to not only bullying, the cold hard truth about how doing what is right is not always popular, and two characters suffer with the loss of their loved ones to cancer. The new coach of the team not only teaches the boys great plays but also teaches them the elements of successful character traits (a lesson in and of themselves). Altogether it is a nicely crafted story that should appeal to both male and female students. There are great lessons in this book and wonderful vivid discussion points about decisions, actions, and repercussions – and about believing in yourself and standing up for what you believe in. Cheripko also teaches students that everyone has heart and everyone makes mistakes – great classroom read!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: huge potential – connecting text to self, sensory images, elements of plot, cause and effect, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: death from cancer, bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment

RELATED BOOKS: Imitate the Tiger, Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, Voices of the River


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Last Shot

Last Shot

Author: John Feinstein

Page Length: 251

Reading Level: 5.2

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY: In the Last Shot by John Feinstein, 8th graders Steven Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson win the USBWA writing contest. The reward is attending the Final Four College Basketball Championship as reporters with full press passes and press access. Their assignment is to write a story a day covering the events surrounding the championship games. Little did they know they would accidentally over hear a coach blackmailing one of the star MSU players, Chip Graber. Thus the mystery arises. Who is the coach and why is he demanding Chip to intentionally lose the championship game? What does the coach have over Chip to make Chip consider losing the game? These questions spark Stevie and Susan’s interest and they begin their quest as amateur sleuths.  No one will answer their questions or take them seriously since they are just “kids”. So they undertake solving the mystery on their own only to find that the blackmail involves very powerful people.   

REVIEW: Any basketball enthusiast will love this book feeling as though you have a courtside seat at the championships. Even those of us who aren’t interested in basketball will enjoy Last Shot. The main character, 8th grader-Steven Thomas, is immediately likeable. Winning the USBWA , a writing contest, is a dream come true for Stevie where he will attend the Final Four basketball championship as a reporter with full press passes and press access. The reader’s attention is immediately captured as Stevie and his co-winner, Susan Carol Anderson embark on solving a mystery of a life-time involving the basketball star, Chip Graber. John Feinstein, a sports reporter himself, impresses upon the importance of the media in solving mysteries with his book Last Shot. The book is fast-paced and keeps the reader wondering what is going to happen next.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone,  5 steps of the writing process, media.

RELATED BOOKS: Summer Ball by Mike Lupica,  Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica, Heat by Mike Lupica, The Big Field by Mike Lupica, Football Genius by Mike Green,  Books by the same author: Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate’s Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open, Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl, Season on the Brink, Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today’s NFL, Running Mates

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Above the Rim (2004), Glory Road (2006), The Basketball Fix (1951), Harvard Man (2001)


REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Ball Don’t Lie

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Ball Don’t Lie

Author: Matt de la Pena

Page Length: 280  

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sticky is a skinny 17-year-old high school junior living in Venice, California.  This is his fourth foster home, after living with his drug addicted, prostitute mother who committed suicide when Sticky was only a young child.  Sticky has an obsessive compulsive disorder, but can usually get control of it after a few minutes.

Although Sticky is white and has been passed from family to family, he has developed an amazing talent for basketball.  He considers his real home the neighborhood recreational gym where old NBA basketball players as well as the homeless hang out.  His passion for basketball is unstoppable.

Surprising even to Sticky, Anh-thu, an Asian girl from school is attracted to him. She loves to watch him play basketball and wants to help him reach his goals and aspirations of making something of the predictable future of a poor white kid living on the street.

Sticky has great plans for Anh-thu’s birthday but they are halted after Sticky is approached for sex at the rec center, makes a bad decision after being taunted by one of the players and finds himself in a dire situation.

REVIEW: I would recommend this book for mature teens.  It is well written in third person voice.  The author is able to create emotion, passion, and suspense in his writing, while covering several intimate scenarios that Sticky experiences in his young life.  Sticky is exposed to difficult situations as a young child, and life doesn’t get easier for him with age. 

The reader is able to see Sticky grow and mature as he progresses through his junior year with the boys at the gym, with his foster family, his girlfriend, and his schoolmates. This is an excellent book for boys interested in basketball.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Setting, Supporting Details, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

TOUCHY AREAS: harsh profanity (p. 53, 128, 171, 175, 230), physical abuse (p. 65), sexual activity (p. 88, 164), sexual abuse (125), drug use (p. 226)

RELATED BOOKS: Slam, Painting the Black, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Athletic Shorts

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Ball Don’t Lie (not yet released), Hoop Dreams (1994, Documentary), Hoosiers (1986), Heaven is a Playground (1991), Above the Rim (1994), On Hallowed Ground: Streetball Champions of Rucker Park (2001 Documentary)


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009


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Author: Jerry Spinelli

Page Length: 162

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Seventh grader, John Coogan, known, as “Crash” is a great athlete, gifted with all the name-brand clothes, videos, and sports paraphernalia that a middle-age boy could want.  He has a very high self-image, but hates the fact that his parents always seem too tired from their work to give him the attention he desires. 

Crash has an annoying neighbor, Penn, who is a Quaker and an extreme dork. Most of the kids at school treat Penn like a dork, and he has multiple pranks pulled on him all the time. Crash is a part of this bullying until he notices that the most gorgeous girl in school is a friend to Penn.  Also, after Crash’s grandfather, Scooter, has a major stroke, Crash begins to see that life is more than being a stud and bullying the underdog.

REVIEW: Crash is an entertaining book that indirectly teaches several morals for young teens to learn.  Crash is a very materialistic, egotistical young man who bullies not only the underdogs, but must always win over his closest peers.  However, he evolves into a young man who grows to appreciate his parents, his grandfather, his sister, and the “dork” down the street.  The book would be enjoyable to all young teens.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Conflict, Comparison/ Contrast, Conclusions, Generalizations and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Tangerine, Freak the Mighty, Max the Mighty, Maniac McGee

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) and Simon Birch (1998)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 5, 2008

Learning the Game

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Learning the Game

Author: Kevin Waltman

Page Length: 217

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nate isn’t the typical teenager. His parents are loaded but never notice him, he has a popular girlfriend who is all about appearances, and his brother is one of the town druggies. Nate wants to fit in with all the guys on the basketball court. One summer day, he is tested. Will he choose the team or what he knows is right? Will he stand by his friend or be bullied by Branson? Nate’s worked super hard on his game all summer, but the terrible truth of his actions just may cost him everything. A surprise call from his brother, a guilty conscience, and a chance that his team could suffer may be too much for Nate. Will he save himself, his team, his girlfriend, or his brother?

REVIEW: This book was fast paced and contained many important elements for teen readers: relationships, sexual tension, bullying and popularity, sports, and family. The moral to the story: telling the truth is the right thing to do – no matter what the consequences – could spark an interesting debate in the classroom – as the book is being read – what are his options? What could he (Nate) do instead? Should he tell or not?

The lessons about true friendships and relationships were important ones. I think that this book would be good for classroom study or for a small group instruction. Boys would generally be more drawn to it than girls and basketball lovers would especially understand Nate’s drive to be the best, make the Varsity starting line, and his descriptions of basketball action.

A secondary story is the disintegration of Nate’s family due to a previous event. When he was younger, he and his brother were at a friend’s house. His brother describes how they were looking at the gun, putting it away, and how it accidentally went off. His friend was dead and his life was forever changed.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence, author’s purpose, character motivations, point of view, cause and effect, flow chart of decisions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: accidental shooting, drugs (mild reference), drinking

RELATED BOOKS: Nowhere Fast, Push, Slam, Game, Hoops, Coach Carter, Summer in the City, Taking Sides

RELATED MOVIES: “Coach Carter,” “Believe in Me,” “Glory Road,” “Finding Forrester”            



REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

November 16, 2008

One Tree Hill The Beginning

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One Tree Hill The Beginning  

Author: Jenny Markas

Page Length: 206

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The town of Tree Hill is split in two. On one side are the rich citizens who live mostly on the hills in their mansions. On the other side are the poor folks who live below, known affectionately as the River Rats. Both sides collide at a high school that bears the same name as the town.

Tree Hill lives and breathes basketball. Whether it is in the gym at the local high school or on the run-down courts of a nearby park, everyone seems to play, cheer, announce, or talk about the sport. The story, which was a catalyst for the popular TV show on the CW Network, focuses primarily on 5 main teenagers: Lucas Scott, Nathan Scott, Haley, Peyton, and Brooke.

Lucas Scott and Haley (River Rats) are best friends. Nathan Scott, Peyton, and Brooke (the rich teens) form the other group. One Tree Hill is no simple good side vs. bad side story, because if you analyze Lucas and Nathan’s last names, you’ll see they are the same. Both Lucas and Nathan share the same father. Lucas doesn’t have contact with his father however since his father left his mom after impregnating her with Lucas. After his mother gave birth to him, the two were left to live their lives trying to make ends meet. While Nathan, however lives with his father in a comfortable mansion.

Both Lucas and Nathan play basketball, but for two very different reasons. Lucas plays with his friends outside just for fun. Nathan plays so he may advance his career in basketball later in life. The two try their best to avoid each other at school until one-day the basketball coach is in need of additional players and seeks out Lucas to join the team. Nathan does not favor this idea at all!!!

REVIEW: This story will appeal to many students as it is connected to a current popular TV show. The idea of two brothers from different mothers is not new. However, the author has updated the idea and placed it in a setting of an every-day town engulfed in the popular sport of basketball. Beyond this basic two-sided story, there lies sub-plots between girl friends and best friends that make for interesting twists. Nathan and Lucas couldn’t be more different, yet they will find it rather difficult to keep their differences and lives apart for too long. They have done a successful job of it for years, but the thing that they love the most, will certainly bring them together.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 201), comparison/contrast (two brothers – Lucas & Nathan) (poor vs. rich)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the book gives a real depiction of teenagers. There are references and visualizations to beer, kegs, bongs, sex, & parties. All references are minor and do not detract from the main story line. The use of the word “bastard” is present as it refers to Lucas, the son of Dan and Karen, who was born out of wed-lock.

RELATED BOOKS: A Heart So True by Anna Lotto, One Tree Hill by Monica Rizzo,


“One Tree Hill” – TV show (2003-2008)

Gavin DeGraw – “I Don’t Want to Be” – 2004 (theme song to One Tree Hill TV show)

RELATED WEBSITES: (official website of the One Tree Hill TV show)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

November 3, 2008


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Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 103

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Remy has just been released from a nine month stay at a juvenile correction facility for assaulting a man who insulted his girlfriend.   While in jail, he did not return letters to his family or girlfriend.  Upon his release, he finds his mother and sister treating him like a criminal.  His girlfriend, Asia, has a new boyfriend, Marcus.   Marcus and his friends are in a rivalry with some of Remy’s friends from school.   Asia knows that Marcus has a knife and wants Remy to talk to him-to warn him what can happen in reality.  Remy is suffering from a lot of anger.  He has to learn to control it and to cope with the people in his surroundings.

REVIEW: Norah McClintock has written another suspenseful book for the reluctant reader.  I thought the book was good because it deals with prejudice, peer pressure, romantic and family issues, and violence.  All of these subjects are matters of pressure that high school students must face each day. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Marijuana use and some profanity but it is not inappropriate for the high school audience. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Conflict, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Marked, Snitch, Tell

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Gridiron Gang (2006), Stomp the Yard (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/DownTG.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 24, 2008

Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

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Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

Author: Janette Rallison

Page Length: 185

Reading Level: not listed

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Josie and Cami are best friends in ninth grade and both are on the basketball team.  Josie is a natural athlete and basketball comes very easy for her.  Cami loves the sport, but must work hard for everything she accomplishes.  Josie has asked Cami to help her get Ethan’s attention.  Ethan, one of the cutest boys in ninth grade, has recently broken up with Ashley who is the captain of the basketball team.

The book is written in narrative form with Josie penning one chapter, then Cami the next.  The reader gets opinions, thoughts, feelings and ideas from both Cami and Josie.  As the book progresses, Cami realizes she also has a crush on Ethan.  Josie begins to enjoy the idea that she could actually be the MVP of the basketball team because she is always the highest point shooter.

The two girls discover that each of them has not been totally honest with the other and a fight develops.  This quarrel carries over to the basketball team and the other players, which causes the team to suffer several losses.  On a road trip to an important basketball game, Josie and Cami discover that friendship is more important than the issues they have put between themselves.

 REVIEW: This is definitely a “chick” book and I think girls of middle school and junior high would enjoy it more than older girls.  The characters and their behaviors are very stereotype of middle class Anglo-Saxon females.

The book was a fast read, but not one that I would highly recommend.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Characters, and Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School, It’s a Mall World After All, The Revenge of the Cheerleaders, Playing the Field

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Grease” (1978)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 10, 2008

Home Invasion

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Home Invasion

Author: Monique Polak    

Page Length: 105

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY:  The story opens the summer before Josh, the narrator enters 10th grade.  He introduces the reader to his mom and her new husband, Clay, an artistic type.  They live in the city of Montreal, where there have been several “home invasions” where people have been robbed.

Josh’s granddad has a heart attack, so his mom has to go to his home and care for him, leaving Josh and Clay, home—alone.  Neither of the males is crazy about this situation; they both love Josh’s mom, but are not fond of each other.   Clay surprises Josh, by paying for him to go to basketball camp so that he can have time to work on his art.

Josh meets the new neighbors down the street, the Levesques, who have a daughter, Patsy, also entering 10th grade.  Josh finds himself in more than one situation, where he has entered the Levesque home, uninvited and goes into hiding.  He experiences an enter thrill and feels he might relate to the “home invaders.”  Although he doesn’t rob the new neighbors, he does overhear some confidential conversations.

The story continues with basketball camp, Clay, more “home invasions” by Josh, and the real home invaders and a blossoming relationship between Patsy and Josh.

REVIEW:  This book is an easy book to read. It seemed the author put too many subplots in the story for the reader to focus on the main idea.  I would not suggest the book for a high school student.  It would serve as a quick read for a junior high student.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Supporting Details

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES:  Sexual references, p. 1-2 and some profanity, but not offensive.

RELATED BOOKS: No More Pranks, Blue Moon, Bull Rider


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 7, 2008

Amazing But True Sports Stories

Amazing But True Sports Stories

Author: Phyllis and Zander Hollander

Page Length: 140

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Nonfiction

REVIEW: 87 true stories about the accomplishments and lives of athletes are contained in this book. Some of the stories are unbelievable, yet very real. The majority of the stories are about baseball players and managers (about 20%), however sports such as football, basketball, and hockey are also highlighted. Each story is a ½ page to 2 pages in length that makes this book enticing to those with a short attention span. Black and white photographs accompany some of the stories. Some of the passages cover teams that have played in Texas.

Here are some highlights: the longest baseball game in history lasted 33 innings over the course of 8 ½ hours (pages 14-16). A baseball game was once called off due to grasshoppers (page 28). The highest scoring baseball game racked up 45 runs (page 45). Tom Dempsey was a successful NFL player given that he only has half of a right foot and a stub for his right hand (page 57). An inspirational football coach in Kansas coached from the confines of his wheelchair (page 65). Wilt Chamberlain, famous basketball player, once scored 100 points in a single game (page 91). 

Other stories in the book include a batboy that was ejected from a game, a baseball player with only one arm, a referee with only one eye, and a golfer who made 3 holes in one in less than 30 minutes!

Many of the stories are about one-time accomplishments or “miracles”, while other stories describe extraordinary individuals who overcome diverse odds. I would recommend this book to any sport lover.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: adjective usage, technical vocabulary (related to sports)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mention of an “adult magazine” (page 124)

RELATED BOOKS: And Nobody Got Hurt 2!, Baseball in April and Other Stories, National Football League: Behind the Scenes

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:Miracle on Ice” (1981), “The Stratton Story” (1949), “Hoosiers” (1986)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

June 25, 2008


Filed under: S — thebookreviews @ 5:22 pm
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Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 266

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Greg Harris, aka Slam, is an outstanding basketball player. He has just recently transferred from his Harlem high school team to a magnet school. The pressure is on to perform in the classroom and on the courts where Slam has to learn to be a team player. All around him struggles are taking place. Life in Harlem is far from easy. Grandma is ill and in the hospital, Derek is following his lead. Ice may be dealing, and he can’t seem to get Mtisha off his mind. As the pressure mounts, Slam has to make some difficult decisions and dig deeper than he ever knew he could. Can he keep it all together and still prevail on the courts or will the pressure be too much?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young man in Harlem. Slam has talent, but he has to learn how to balance the demands of life without giving up or giving in. Slam! is a compelling story and a must read for basketball fans. This book would be good in an audio version. In general, the book would appeal more to boys. High school students can relate to Slam’s relationship issues, worries about his best friend’s new choices, and the pressure of making the grades and finding a path for the future. This book contains strong characters and play by play descriptions at times of basketball games and moves (which could bore students who do not understand the game of basketball). Great book for an African-American male who loves basketball to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, causes of Slam’s difficulties – effects of his choices, setting, theme, conflict, writer’s motive, context clues (about Ice)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: allusions to drugs

RELATED BOOKS: Basketball by Mike Kennedy, The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams, How to Be Like Mike: Life Lessons about Basketball’s Best, Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream, The Beast

RELATED MOVIES:  Hoosiers (1986), Hoop Dreams (1994), Above the Rim (1994), Finding Forrester, Coach Carter (2005), Glory Road (2006)

RELATED MUSIC: Shaquille O’Neal – Respect, Hit Em High – Space Jam Soundtrack, We Are the Champions – Queen


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 2, 2008

Yellow Line

Filed under: Y — thebookreviews @ 8:46 pm
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The Yellow Line

Author: Sylvia Olsen

Page Length: 107

Reading Level: 2.4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Vince lives in a small town divided by a yellow line. Indians stay one side of the town (and the street) and whites stay on another. Despite the fact these students ride the bus and are schooled together, racial tensions prevail everywhere. Vince becomes involved when his cousin Sherry begins dating one of the “other kind.” Vince’s parents are enraged and want Vince to tell Sherry’s parents what he’s seen. Vince himself is finding that he’s changing. That cute girl on the bus with those mesmerizing eyes won’t leave his mind, hanging with his friends isn’t that fun it used to be, and dealing with the taunting and threats of the Indian crowd is getting him down.

Vince faces difficult decisions. Will he rat Sherry out to her parents? Should he tell someone what he knows about the assault? How can he ease the tensions all around him?

REVIEW: This book is written on a low reading level and is a quick read. However, its briefness does not allow full development of the story line and often issues are introduced and dismissed more quickly than they should be. Sometimes it seems as if the Orca books try to address too many issues at once. For struggling readers, the story line is engaging and the length of the book motivating. This book examines racial tensions and just how difficult but rewarding overcoming them can be. The character also faces difficult decisions and learns that taking a stand for what is right is often difficult but always essential.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence, cause and effect, writer’s motive, audience, purpose, tone, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: an assault takes place – but the details provided are sketchy

RELATED BOOKS: Death Wind, One More Step, Grind, Tears of a Tiger, The World According to Dog, Maniac Magee

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:  Crash, Freedomland

MUSIC-SONG CONNECTIONS: Black or White by Michael Jackson, Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney, Drowning by Hootie and the Blowfish, Free Your Mind by En Vogue


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

May 1, 2008

Danger Zone

Filed under: D — thebookreviews @ 5:20 pm
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Danger Zone

Author: David Klass

Page Length: 232

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jimmy Doyle is a small town all star basketball player in Minnesota. One night, scouts visit the game and invite Jimmy to play on the Teen Dream Team for the USA. He will spend the summer traveling in Europe and playing with the top teen athletes in the world. Jimmy is worried about his family but he reluctantly accepts.

When Jimmy arrives he is met with resistance. Not everyone thinks him worthy of being on the team. Jimmy must work hard to overcome his own fears and feelings of inadequacy. He was chosen for a reason; when he finds his zone, there is no stopping him.

The Dream Team encounters hatred and racism in a game against the Germans. Soon there are threats of violence and everyone is on alert for a terrorist act. Some of the team members return to the states. Will Jimmy stay and face his biggest fears yet? Can the Dream Team stay focused and unify to defeat the other teams and clinch the World Championship? Will they even make it back home alive?

REVIEW: This is a great book. Students who love action and sports will enjoy reading this book. As a teaching tool, it also addresses stereotypes, racism, cultural diversity, perseverance, and strength of character. This book would be good for a classroom novel read aloud with discussion.

Klass’s main character, Jimmy, is a strong role model. He remains dedicated to his sport. He places the interest of his family over those of himself. Despite his fame, he remains true to his girlfriend and his own belief system. His courage and desire to overcome prejudice make him a notable character and a great example.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: summarization, compare and contrast, cause and effect, sequence of events, predictions, inferences

TOUCHY AREAS: terroristic threats, ethnic and racial tension

RELATED BOOKS: Wrestling with Honor, California Blue, Home of the Braves, You Don’t Know Me

RELATED MOVIES: Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans, Hoosiers


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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