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