________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 8 . . . . October 25, 2013


Hoop Magic. (Sports Stories).

Eric Howling.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2013.
130 pp., pbk., hc. & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $7.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0525-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0524-0 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0526-4 (ebook).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4



For the last drill Coach Krinski had the players dribble around a series of orange cones. This was one exercise where it helped being low to the ground. Orlando scooted through the course and afterwards gave a nod to the coach hoping he'd give him high marks. Orlando had been watching the rest of the players go through the drills and so far thought he was easily in the top half. He wasn't the most skilled player on the court, but he sure wasn't the worst, either. If he could keep this up he'd make the squad for sure.

Orlando has never played on a basketball team, but when he moves to a new junior high school, he tries out for the team. He has spent hours practicing in his driveway and listening to professional basketball games on the radio. Orlando was born in Haiti and adopted by his Canadian family. He is extremely short for his age. He lives with his parents, who teach at Queen's University, and his sister, Megan, who is exactly the same age as he. Megan is the captain of her girls' basketball team at her school.

      Coach Krinski, who is also Orlando's math teacher, is the basketball coach. Initially, Orlando doesn't make the cut for the top 10 players, but when one player is injured in a skateboard accident, Orlando is called up to the team. He does his best, but he is not the best player. When he enters a contest at his favorite basketball radio program, Orlando wins a trip for three to Toronto to watch the Raptors play and participate in the broadcast. Orlando has found a talent for announcing which he has taken to with a passion, both to encourage his team when he is on the bench and in the classroom when he has a substitute teacher. Because the episode in the classroom has angered the principal, she has refused to allow Orlando to do any announcing at school. When she hears his talent on the radio and his team is losing the championship game, she relents and allows Orlando to do what he is really good at announcing the game and encouraging his team.

      Hoop Magic is an exciting story about basketball and adversity. Orlando is very short and thinks that is the reason he isn't a good basketball player. He is also looking for acceptance from his family, his friends and his team. His announcing allows him to be good at something and to be noticed in a positive way. Self-acceptance is a theme of the story. On his trip to Toronto, Orlando realizes that he is very lucky to be part of his family.

      The 125 pages are divided into 18 chapters with titles that relate to the plot. The dialogue is realistic, and the varied and interesting vocabulary is appropriate for the intended audience. As the cover blurb states, the plot is "fast paced and action-driven". Characters are realistic, and the plot is believable. From the basketball court to the math classroom and to a home where both parents are busy at their jobs, Orlando must decide how to navigate his life. At the beginning, he realizes that he can have anything he wants because his parents feel guilty about their workloads, but, by the end, he sees the value in himself and what he does.

      Hoop Magic would appeal to a variety of readers, including readers of sports and realistic fiction. This book would be an excellent class novel for individual reading or as a read-aloud choice particularly for the older ages in the intended audience. It would be an excellent addition for personal, class, school and public libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, now doing faculty training and program development at Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.

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

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