by Mike LupicaSyndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 9780399247156]
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—In these additions to the series, Lupica features kids who struggle with adversity to reach their full potential both on the athletic field and in life. In Hot Hand, 10-year-old Billy Raynor must deal with his parents' recent separation, a situation complicated by the fact that his hard-driving, sometimes neglectful father is also his basketball coach. The protagonist of Two-Minute Drill is Scott Parry, the perennial new kid who tries out for the local sixth-grade-level football team in attempt to fit in with his classmates. His frustrations as the worst player on the team take a turn when the star player, Chris Conlan, comes to him with a secret: if he can't pass a state reading test, he'll be moved to special-education classes and taken off the team. Both novels strike a good balance between sports action and more interior explorations of social issues facing today's children. The characters are sometimes a bit shallow but are always sympathetic, particularly talentless but tough Scott, and the adults have complexity and depth, which can be rare in genre novels. The strongest point in both books is the quality of the sports play-by-play; Lupica portrays the action clearly and vividly, with a real sense of the excitement and unpredictable nature of the games. These are worthy additions to collections seeking to draw in middle-grade boys with an enthusiasm for athletics.—Meredith Robbins, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, New York City
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