________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 37 . . . . May 27, 2011


Slam Dunk. (Sports Stories).

Steve Barwin & Gabriel David Tick.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2011.
118 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-688-9.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

*** /4



Like a dog responding to its owner, Mason chugged toward the coach.

"You had several opportunities to pass and you didn't." The coach ran his fingers through his thin, whiskered hair. "Did you or did you not see Cindy clearly in the open?" The coach didn't wait for Mason to respond and then hit with, "You're benched."

Mason immediately exclaimed a defensive "What?"

Coach Pollinoffsky commented, "You look distracted out there. Take a seat." Then he looked over to Isaac. "You're in."

Mason had nothing to say. The coach was right. Mason wanted to tell the coach that he would do better and that there was no need to pull him from the game. But he decided there was no point. Besides, he didn't want to make a big scene in front of a whole gymnasium full of people. Mason took a seat on the bench, sweating everywhere, and felt about as isolated from everything as the first astronaut must have felt on the moon.

When several of the basketball players on Mason's Junior High team are selected for a drama group, the coach invites five female players to join the team. There is a range of feelings as many of the boys resist the team's becoming co-ed. Mason likes Cindy who is one of the new players. He works with her to plan a party to integrate the team, the pair's thinking being that, if the players get to know each other, they will jell as a team. Cindy has shared with Mason that her dad is an alcoholic. At the party, Mason joins with two other boys and is dared into drinking a beer. When Cindy sees him, she is devastated.

If the team wins the semifinal game, they will go to Ottawa for their championship game. Mason really wants to win because one of his best friends has moved from Toronto to Ottawa and he would be able to visit with him.

      Slam Dunk combines basketball and a personal struggle of relationships. The basketball story takes place over several games as the boys learn to accept the girls and include them in the game strategy. The girls are very good players and can bring much to the team and its success. The boys also are interested in the girls as friends. Mason is torn being liking Cindy and wanting to be her friend and yet resistant to the changes that are happening. The players interact at school as they are in the same classes. Mason becomes Cindy's lab partner when they are dissecting frogs.

      The characters are realistic as they encounter plausible situations. Mason and Cindy are nervous around each other and are exploring their feelings. The vocabulary is interesting and would appeal to the intended audience. The author uses words such as guesstimated (page 47) and references to actors such as Danny Devito (page 11). He uses a variety of images, "herd of players" (page 7) and "discordant ruckus" (page 7). The chapter headings would appeal to the age group. A few examples are "Slice and Dice" when the frogs are dissected, "Risky Business" when the class goes to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame and "Mission Impossible" to describe a basketball game that they must win. The chapters are about ten pages in length and often end at a point where readers would want to continue reading.

      Reluctant readers, sports fans and general readers would enjoy Slam Dunk which is part of the basketball :Sport Stories" series. The language and plot would be suitable for the intended readers. Slam Dunk would be a good read-aloud choice and suitable for school, public and personal libraries.


Deborah Mervold is an educator and teacher-librarian from Shellbrook, SK. Presently employed by the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST), she is working in the areas of faculty training and program development.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.