________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 3 . . . . September 16, 2011


Heads Up! (Sports Stories).

Dawn Hunter & Karen Hunter.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2010.
120 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-507-3.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by J. Lynn Fraser.

** /4


How do young boys react when their parents’ divorce? How do they react when a new baby brother or sister is introduced into their recently ‘blended’ family? Dawn and Karen Hunter explore how a teenaged boy named Cody copes with these issues as well as with an unreliable father and a questionable new friend who challenges his loyalties and his ethics.

      The authors give the reader a reasonable sense of the issues and conflicts that Cody faces with an absentee father, a new stepfather, and a new sibling being introduced into his family. Soccer provides a vehicle through which the authors gently introduce the reader to Cody’s world, his conflicts and relationships with others and his gradual attainment of self awareness.

      Dan, a new student at Cody’s school, is introduced to the reader and Cody through soccer. Cody’s interest in Dan puts his relationship with longtime friend Jacob in peril:

“He’s not that bad,” Cody protested. “He’s a great soccer player, and we get along alright. You just need to give him a chance.”

“A chance?” Jacob sputtered. “Right from the first day we met him, Dan has either showed off or ignored me or bugged me about stuff. I don’t want to hang around with him at all.….He’s trouble, and I hope you don’t have to find out the hard way.”

      Heads Up! provides a steady change of scenery and conflict for young readers, but its weakness is in Cody’s willingness to risk arrest and his parents’ anger, in addition to losing a place on his soccer team and possibly his best friend, all for Dan’s company. The authors’ explanation is left too late in the story and is unconvincing: “Cody had let Dan influence his thinking because Dan did exciting things and somehow filled a void left by his father.”

      Exchanges between Cody and his father, for example (p. 91):

Cody was a little disappointed that his dad never called just to see how he was. He always called for a specific reason, and it was usually about how well Cody had done or whether he had met a certain goal….

“Well,” his dad hesitated, “if your weren’t playing, there’s really not much point in me coming, is there? I’m pretty much tied up with work anyway…”

      could have provided an opportunity to illustrate Cody’s anger, not disappointment, at his father’s behaviour. If allusions had been made to Cody’s stronger feelings, his actions would make more sense and would be helpful to a reader who might be experiencing the same type problems in his/her own relationships.

      However, Heads Up provides a good talking point for a class discussion about divorce, choices and their consequences, loyalty to friends and being honest about feelings.


Located in Toronto, ON, J. Lynn Fraser is an author and freelance writer. She writes for national and international magazines, non-profits, and corporations.

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