“Step up to the plate” Maria Singh

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Tu Books. (Lee & Low). 276 p.

StepUpToThePlateIt was 1945 and, with World War II going on, all nine-year-old Maria wanted to do was play baseball. Her aunt built planes and women were starting to play professional ball so, when her teacher started an all-girls team at her school, Maria was thrilled. Unfortunately her Mexican mother and Indian father had old-fashioned ideas about what girls could do, so she knew it would be hard to convince them to let her play.

As she learns about teamwork and baseball, Maria also starts to learn about prejudice and racism when her little brother is beat up for being different and a German classmate lashes out at her. When she finds out her father can’t become a U.S. citizen or own the land he’d worked for years, through the confidence earned from playing the game she loved, Maria learns to speak up and make a difference in her world.

This book is an important introduction to the inequalities and discrimination faced by specific immigrant groups, many of which still go on today. Readers are also given insight into the world of adha-adha “half and half,” (Mexican-Hindu families) which also serves to educate. It should be in every elementary and middle school library, and would make for excellent discussions as part of a book club.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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“Interference” Kay Honeyman

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published September 27, 2016. Arthur A. Levine Books. 340 p.

interferenceKate Hamilton has spent her life walking a tightrope, as she has had to make sure to never bring scandal on the family name because her father is a politician. When he falls behind in the polls because of something her ex boyfriend did to humiliate her, he take Kate and her mother out of D.C. to spend a few months in his Texas hometown to regroup.

In her quest to get a recommendation to art school to study photography and escape politics forever, Kate winds up volunteering at her aunt’s animal shelter where she meets annoying Hunter, the handsome ex-football player. Joining the yearbook staff to use their darkroom introduces her to handsome Kyle, star quarterback, and shy Ana. With football ruling the school, and politics ruling her home, it’s only a matter of time before football and politics lead Kate into making decisions she’ll soon regret.

Recommended for ages 12-17.

 

 

 

“Gutless” Carl Deuker

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 329 p.

gutlessBrock Ripley is first to back away from conflicts, on the soccer field or off. He hates being gutless, but doesn’t know how to be brave. When he agrees to catch passes for Hunter Gates, the school’s star quarterback, his life becomes even more confusing as he tries to learn football and avoid getting hit on the field, hold off Hunter’s jealous former wide receiver, hide his father’s worsening sickness from his friends, and keep his friendship with Richie Fang.

Though Richie is a star soccer player, wins all types of competitions, is academically gifted, and a great jokester, his talents don’t include ways to stop riling Hunter. The angrier Hunter gets towards Richie, the more Brock retreats into his shell of avoidance. It is only a matter of time before Brock will have to learn how to get himself off the fence and onto the field of life before it’s too late.

This action packed book about football, bullying, true friendship, and learning to stand up for yourself is bound to pique the interest of readers – especially reluctant readers.

Recommended for ages 11-18.

“Last man out” Mike Lupica

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published September 15, 2016. Philomel Books (Penguin.)

LastManOutTwelve-year-old Tommy Gallagher and his father Patrick have a very special relationship. His love of football came from his dad, and they bonded over practices, games and watching the Patriots. Dad has always been around for him and his little sister Em, explaining the importance of being a leader on and off the field, helping her become a soccer star, and just being there for them.

When his firefighter father never makes it out of a fire at the beginning of Tommy’s football season, he feels as if all his hopes and dreams died with his dad. Despite their mother’s attempts to keep things normal, Tommy believes things will never again be normal. With football no longer having the thrill it used to have for him, Tommy seeks alternate thrills, which don’t always lead to correct decisions. Em rebels by walking away from her soccer team right in the middle of their championship season.

As Tommy and Em struggle to reinvent themselves after the loss of their beloved father, they also strive to remain true to what he taught them while he was alive. In “Last man out” Lupica, once again, has brought heart, soul and sports together in a way that will leave his young readers engrossed, involved and thoughtful.

Highly recommended for ages 11-15.

“Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsberg

Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic.) 320 pp.

OpenlyStraightRafe came out of the closet when he was in 8th grade. It was surprisingly easy, as Boulder Colorado accepted everyone for everything. His hippie parents had no problem with it and neither did his best friend Claire Olivia, his neighbors, friends, schoolmates or teachers.

By his junior year of high school Rafe began to feel like no one saw the real him because they only saw him as being “the gay guy.” Wanting to live a label free life, Rafe decided to attend an all boys’ school in Natick, Massachusetts and act straight so he could live without a label.

In Natick Rafe guarded his secret, became a jock, and hid his true self. Within a few months, his carefully built house of cards began to crumble when he fell in love with Ben, a jock. Rafe was now faced with a dilemma. If he told Ben his secret, he’d lose him. However, if he didn’t tell would he still lose?

In this humorous look at a serious subject, Konigsberg brings readers into Rafe’s mindset helping them to understand why he would undertake a new life in Natick, the importance of not assigning labels to others, and how to understand if you are running away from yourself to find yourself.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

“Better off Friends” Elizabeth Eulberg

Rated 4 stars **** Published February 25, 2014. ARC. Point (Scholastic, Inc.)

BetteroffFriendsCan a guy and girl be best friends? Can they really be friends yet not be romantically involved? Can a guy and girl who are best friends ever date if their friendship is at stake? If a guy and girl who are best friends eventually start to have feelings for each does that mean their friendship is doomed? These questions and more are answered in Elizabeth Eulberg’s very insightful story told in the voices of both friends for greater authenticity.

Early in 7th grade Macallan and Levi met when he moved from California to Wisconsin. At first he was just another new kid, but their friendship took off when they discovered a common love for a BBC sitcom. Over the years, their friendship grew stronger as they spent time hanging out after school, laughing at each other’s jokes, and sharing the good and bad events in their lives.

Despite both having boyfriends/girlfriends and outside interests over the years, people always assumed they were dating. Their boyfriends/girlfriends knew about their special friendship, but sometimes these relationships got a little awkward. Of course Macallan and Levi shrugged off these comments, until the day romantic feelings for each other started to rear its head in high school. Can a guy and girl really be best friends?

I loved reading “Better off Friends,” as I’ve run into this same situation with a couple of my own male friends. The interesting questions and scenarios I posed earlier will keep readers turning the pages to find out if Macallan and Levi have the answers.

Recommended for ages 12-16.

 

“Call Me By My Name” John Ed Bradley

Rated ***** stars. ARC ebook. To be published May 6, 2014. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

CallMeByMyNameFootball, friendship, love, hate, prejudice and the world of the Deep South in the 60’s to early 70’s are introduced to readers through the lives of Tater Henry and Rodney Boulet. Tater and Rodney met on a summer day in 1965 when Tater came to the white park to try out for baseball. Uneducated about the invisible racial line separating the two parts of town, Rodney saved him from further harm from the white players who wished to educate him about it.

It took 4 more years until their paths crossed permanently, and they soon became inseparable friends. Angie, Rodney’s twin sister, accepted Tater unconditionally while Rodney had to work to keep his racist father’s thoughts and behavior from becoming his own. Football unified them even more, as the two became almost as close as brothers.

With Tater blazing new paths as the school’s first black quarterback, and Rodney his protective lineman, college scouts lined up for them. However, as Tater and Angie’s feelings for each other began to grow to more than friendship, Rodney’s flare-ups of racism seemed to increase. Can two boys of different races and backgrounds overcome years of hatred sown deeply through generations to have a time enduring friendship, or will society’s pressures doom them to failure?

“Call Me By My Name” bears some similarities to the story of 1960’s football players Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayer (whose friendship was portrayed in the movie “Brian’s Song.”) It will remain with its readers long after the last page is turned. Recommended for readers 14 and older.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW

Be sure to have a box of tissues ready.