Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
This is going to be cool, I thought as I hauled my enormous duffle bag out of the car and turned to gaze at the grey stone building that would be my home for the next two weeks. Fourteen days of nothing but hard-core basketball with some of the best players in the entire province. The parking lot was buzzing with other boys calling their goodbyes as they were dropped off at the Dalhousie University summer basketball camp. If my stepmother hadn't tried to hug me, things would have been perfect.
Jeff has great expectations for his two weeks at basketball camp in Halifax. He assumes that his fellow players will share his passion for the game, and he submits to his stepmother's close proximity at a convention as a minor inconvenience. What he finds, however, is that, although the athletes share a love for the game, they bring their own considerable ambitions and aggressions to the courts. Although Jeff adjusts to the realities of playing with returning players, many of whom expect to be chosen for the All Star team, he is most influenced by off-court contacts. His roommate, though chosen for his basketball skills, is obsessed with mountain biking and uses his attendance at the camp as a cover for participation in a local race. Although exasperated by "crazy Chip Carson", Jeff has to stretch his own stereotypes when he finds a good teammate and friend in Chip.
Camp All-Star is Coldwell's second contribution to the Lorimer Sports Stories Series. His first novel, Fast Break, introduced Jeff at a pivotal time in his life when pick-up basketball became his passport to making new friends after a reluctant move to live with his father and new step-mother. Although Jeff had to deal with peer conflicts ranging from bullying and theft to underage drinking, he eventually found his place in the community. In Camp All-Star, Jeff is an older fourteen; and, while he does lash out at his stepmother Sharon for her drop-in visits, he has worked through his initial distrust and anger with her. In fact, his irritation with her as a representative adult and parent is a feeling shared by all of the registered campers. In Camp All-Star, Coldwell captures very effectively the assurance and studied cool of the age group. Dialogue between the characters is well handled, from put-downs to kudos, and reflects the currency of the day.
In this second novel, Coldwell stays away from the grimmer side of youth culture and abandons issues of drugs and alcohol for an elaborate tease set up by Jeff and Chip against a fellow player. Jay offends primarily in his neatness and apparent perfection of play and dress. This hoax involves a science camper named Tess who has come into contact with Jeff, mostly through adventures and misadventures with experiments. The incident, presented as a humorous element, does not work effectively, perhaps because the stereotype of the science versus the sport characters is just too extreme. The humiliation dealt out to Jay is gentle in comparison to the bullying and threats of the previous book, but it betrays a mean-spirited aspect of character which is at odds with Jeff's personality. In exploring a camp setting dominated by sport challenges, Coldwell is excellent, but, in this hazing aspect, he is less effective, trying an almost slapstick element with Chip and Jeff dressed for "maximum nerdiness." The joke, while providing relief from the stresses of on-court competition, is too great a change of mood and too unrealistic to work well within the story.
Ian Watts's cover art, which portrays two mid-teen males, effectively captures basketball's physicality and will attract its intended audience.
Camp All-Star will appeal to readers seeking stories about sports. The competitive edge of the sports writing outshines the social aspect which is introduced in the latter part of the story.
Recommended with reservations.
Jennifer Johnson works as a children's librarian in Ottawa, Ontario.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - JUNE 6, 1997.
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