________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 11 . . . . February 1, 2002

cover Hoop Crazy!

Eric Walters.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2001.
154 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-55143-184-X.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4



Actually I found Ned very trying. He was trying my patience, and trying my ability to remain even remotely polite. It wasn't just that he couldn't play [basketball]---and he couldn't---as much as the things that kept on coming out of his mouth. He kept rambling on and on about insects, and dinosaurs, and 'interesting' facts about nature that nobody but him seemed to find interesting.

I had to hand that to him though. Despite the fact that he stunk, he just kept on trying. He was terrible, but he wasn't giving up. If I was that bad I would have gone inside the house and just quit. Maybe he wasn't smart enough to realize just how bad he was.

There was no question about how much playing time he was going to get in the tournament. Unless the other team totally sucked or we were up by ten baskets, he was going to sit on the sidelines.

Kia had been bugging me, saying that we could play him a little. I figured the 'littler' the better.

One problem with sports novels for the young is the motivation for the action around which the plot revolves. So often it seems to be parent-driven parents wanting to triumph vicariously through their kids' exploits, and, therefore, cheating, bribing, or encouraging other unsportsmanlike behavior in order that they may boast around the office coffee machine. Better that a kids' book should have a kid-centered plot, and Hoop Crazy has.

     Nick, Kaia, Mike, and Jordan had a long-standing agreement that they would enter a three-on-three summer basketball tournament. Suddenly, Jordan's parents decide that he must come museum-hopping in Europe with them. Fortunately a friend of Nick's mother is coming to visit and is bringing her son who is exactly Nick's age. Unfortunately the son, Ned, has never played basketball. Fortunately he is a foot taller than any other grade four kid around. Unfortunately he is clumsy and while attempting to get a rebound during a practice session with the other three, he accidentally lands on Mark, giving him a badly sprained ankle. And so it swings, back and forth until, in the end, the "fortunates" outweigh the "unfortunates," and they win the tournament.

     These are all basically really nice kids. They accept necessary evils, such as having to incorporate a hopeless nerd into the team, with initial grumbles, but eventual resignation; Ned-the-nerd accepts being turned into a basketball player, at least in appearance, and also accepts that no one actually expects him to be even a little bit competent. Parental suggestions are weighed and judged acceptable, at least from time to time. So it's not quite true to life? Well, never mind, it's refreshing! And the descriptions of the games are exciting and fun. Nick's team wins the semi-final game by default, however, because the opposing team is disqualified for deliberate foul play and general bad sportsmanship---a useful moral, but perhaps a trifle heavy-handed.

     This book will probably not please cynical grade six students, but the Fours and Fives should love it.

Mary Thomas works in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg and, yes, the Grade Fours do play basketball, but she has never seen them do so.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364