________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004


Out of Bounds. (Sports Stories; 70).

Sylvia Gunnery.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2004.
98 pp, pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-826-1 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-827-X (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Basketball stories.
Fires - Juvenile fiction.
Loyalty - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Tanus Tosh McNeill.

*** /4


While they waited for Burke to come into the gym and get practice started, Mike Murphy made sure the ball was thrown to Jay a couple of times so he could take some shots. Each ball swished through the hoop. The smooth feel of the gym floor under his sneakers, the hollow sound that echoed against the walls and high into the rafters when he bounced the ball, the alert energy he felt in his legs and down his arms to the tips of his fingers – all this was as natural to Jay as taking a breath.

When he was introduced to the rest of the team, he tried memorizing the names: Jacob, Russ, Vince, Alex, Greg, Chris, Rob, Mac (whose name was really Chris too). Burke told everyone to shake hands with their new teammate and they did. Most of them seemed okay with a Richmond guy playing for Centreville. Jay figured it was probably easier for the regional champs to relax when someone from another school joined their team. Or maybe Burke had somehow warned them, given them the “his loyalty is with us now: speech.

Burk blew the whistle and made a circle in the air with his raised arm. “Everyone do the loop ten times! Let’s go!”

The latest book in the “Sports Stories” series, Out of Bounds keeps that competitive spirit going. For 13-year-old Jay, it is tough enough having his house nearly burnt down, but life turns unbearable when he discovers that he can no longer play for his school basketball team. Jay suddenly sees his friends from a different vantage point, and he decides to take charge of his own life. This decision is difficult for Jay, but it helps him to become a more confident individual.

     The story opens with Jay’s life being perfect. Jay loves basketball, and he plays well. His best friend, Colin, is also on the Richmond School basketball team. Jay has a girlfriend, Allie, who provides him with moral support. Everything is great until Jay’s house catches on fire and the family is forced to move to Jay’s grandfather’s house. Suddenly, Jay can no longer play for the Richmond team because his grandfather’s house is out of the school area. If Jay wants to finish out the basketball season, he must sign up to play with their team’s rival, the Centreville Cougars.

     Out of loyalty to the Richmond team, Jay refuses to play basketball for his new school. Predictably, Jay makes an unexpected visit to his former school, and he discovers that Colin and Allie have begun dating and that his team no longer needs him. These devastating realizations force Jay to look more critically at his friends. Jay slowly accepts the fact that Colin is an underhanded player, a poor loser, and a dishonest friend. For Jay’s own happiness, he decides to play with the Centreville team. The story reaches its climax when Jay and Colin meet on the court. Jay has difficulty staying focused on the game, and he ends up fouling out. The Centreville team loses the game, but they will proceed to the regionals despite the loss. Jay’s new teammates think he has thrown the game until the basketball coach points out that it took courage on Jay’s part to put on a Centreville uniform and play against his former teammates. To conclude the story, Jay’s new teammate and friend, Mike Murphy, agrees with the coach, and Jay and Mike’s families end the book by going out for pizza together.

     Jay is an average teenage boy who loves basketball. He demonstrates loyalty to his school basketball team and to his friends. He has a solid sense of fair play, although he does not confront Colin about his unsportsman-like behaviour. Jay’s budding confidence crumbles on his date with Allie. These silly dating traumas could be humourous, but the situations seem forced and as a result the whole scene seems flat.

     Written in the third person, with an adolescent boy as the central character, this book will be of interest to boys. All the close relationships in the novel are between the male characters, whether it is Jay with Colin, his teammates, his father, grandfather, or his younger brother. Even Jay’s dog is male. The themes of basketball, team sports, and competition will attract the sports-minded reader. Other possible themes include friendship, family, and courage. Unfortunately, the story ends quickly, and the reader may feel that the ending is incomplete.

     This book will meet older reluctant readers’ needs because it is relatively short in length, is written at a grade 5 reading level, and has attractive cover art. Some of the language is stilted, but Jay’s inner struggles regarding his friends, his allegiance to his former school, and his love for the game of basketball help to move the story along. At the end of the book, there is a long list of other sports books in the “Sports Stories” series to help students make future selections in this same genre.

     Out of Bounds is an average read. The on-court action is appealing for sports enthusiasts. Students who have had to change schools will understand Jay’s struggles. Also readers will easily relate to Jay’s sense of betrayal concerning his friends. Younger middle-years readers and reluctant readers who enjoy sports books will enjoy this book.


Tanus Tosh McNeill is a teacher-librarian at Van Walleghem School in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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