________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 20 . . . . June 10, 2005


Play On. (Sports Stories, 73).

Sandra Diersch.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2004.
95 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-856-3 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-857-1 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Soccer stories.
Stepfathers-Juvenile fiction.
Leadership-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

** /4


Saturday morning Alecia was tying her cleats before their game against the Tornadoes, when Allison and Rianne came and sat down beside her.

"So did you hear anymore about that shoplifting thing? Rianne asked as they opened their bags.

Alecia stiffened, but kept her head down as Allison answered in a stage whisper.

"Actually I did! I heard Marnie was working with someone else. It was all planned just like a movie heist."

"Where did you hear that?"

"Oh, it's all over my school! I guess t happened near there or something. And I'm pretty sure Lexi was with her. The second girl was wearing that sweatshirt Lexi always has on the black one with the purple lightning marks. I can see Lexi acting as the foil she'd get into some argument with the clerk...".

Hi-lo books, aka high interest low vocabulary books, absolutely must have that first ingredient high interest if they are to have any hope of keeping reluctant readers actually reading. Because Play On lacks a strong central focus, it will likely lose many of its readers as they search for something to sustain their interest. Alecia Parker, almost 14, plays for the Burrards, a Vancouver soccer team that is coached by her stepfather, Jeremy, who has just recently also become her adoptive father. Two of Alecia's friends, Conner and Laurie, are dating, but Conner believes that Laurie, who is also Alecia's teammate on the Burrards, wants to break up with him, and Alecia finds herself in the middle, not wanting to have to choose between them. Alecia becomes involved in yet another romance as a further teammate and friend, Anne Yeung, wishes to see a boy, Tyler, romantically but knows her father would not approve of her dating. Consequently, Alecia finds herself assisting Anne in "dating" Tyler by going on group outings where she is paired with Trevor Lunden, a recent arrival in the community and someone Alecia dislikes because of his constant bragging about his own soccer skills and his ongoing criticisms of the Burrards' play. Mother-daughter conflict is also included as Mrs. Parker criticizes Alecia's overuse of makeup and chastizes her for failing to carry out her household chores. As well, when internal dissension, fueled by gossip and changing loyalties, seems to be fracturing the Burrards soccer team, causing them to lose games, Alecia and Laurie develop a plan involving reverse psychology to reunite the players. When their plan almost backfires, it leaves Jeremy, their coach, in an embarrassing position with the league and the team's parents. All ends well though, and the Burrards "play on" and win the league championship, and Alecia discovers that she actually likes Trevor.

     Since Play On continues the story of Alecia Sheffield which was found in Offside! and Alecia's Challenge, the book may be of interest to girls who are familiar with the earlier volumes and who want to know more about what happens to Alecia; however, Play On is not a strong, engaging stand alone read.

Recommended with reservations.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in literature for adolescents at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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