________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 7 . . . . November 29, 2002


Long Shot. (An Orca Young Reader).

Eric Walters.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2001.
140 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-55143-216-1.

Subject Headings:
Basketball stories.
Self-esteem-Juvenile fiction.
Friendship-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gillian Noonan.

***½ /4


“You all just died and the reason you died is none of you, not one, has enough heart!” he yelled, looking right at his son. “You’re acting like losers and I don’t want any losers on my team! Do you know what a loser is?” he demanded.

I kept my eyes focused squarely on the floor.

“A loser is somebody who stops trying to win. Is there anybody in here who thinks he’s lost already?” There was no answer. We all just sat there and said nothing. “Do you think we can win?” he demanded pointing at one kid.

“Um... maybe... I guess.”

“You guess! If you don’t think we can win, maybe you better just pack your things and go home now!” he bellowed. “Do you think we can win?” he demanded of him again.

The novel, Long Shot by Eric Walters, is not what one typically expects from a sports novel for young readers. Many sports novels focus heavily on the action of the game at the expense of the story. This book makes the action of the game or rather the tryouts work to make the story come to life. Nick, through whom the story is told, is trying out for a local basketball team -- a team he was a part of the previous year. The new season will be quite different for the players because the old coach whom everyone loved has retired and is replaced by a former college star whose pro career was lost due to injury. The reaction to this new coach is mixed. Nick’s dad is in awe that his son could be coached by a former big name athlete. Nick’s mom thinks the coach should realize that basketball is only a game. Nick is worried how he will make the team with such a demanding coach and feels he can no longer play well. The coach’s son just wishes that the coach was more like his dad. Amidst the growing worries about how things are going to turn out for the upcoming season, Nick makes some important discoveries about the importance of being true to yourself and what you believe.

     The setting for the novel, the fourth in Walters’ award-winning basketball series, is Mississauga, Ontario, which is incidental to the story. Basketball is the stage upon which this story takes place. The book is filled with references to the game, its plays and practices, but it does not so fill the pages of the book that the reader learns little of the players’ characters. Walters successfully grabs the reader’s attention (even the reader with little knowledge or interest of the game) and keeps it as the reader wants to know what will happen. You want to know whether Nick, Kia and L.B. will make the team. The characters are well drawn and believable even though there are some stereotypical images which have arisen before in sports stories: the mother is the one who thinks that competition is getting the better of the coach; the father has saved every issue of Sports Illustrated that he ever owned; and the coach’s son is really interested in playing the saxophone. The reader is not overburdened with these images and can easily accept that that’s how it is in this story because it is the character of Nick who is trying to do his best while sorting out how he feels about this demanding coach which is central to the story. The end is not expected but will make the reader cheer for all the team members, the coach included, who are all winners in this game.

     Long Shot is a good story that would be enjoyed by any young reader but especially those interested in basketball. There is more than action to be received from this sports story.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher living in Old Perlican, Newfoundland.


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

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