Lupica, Mike. Fantasy League
September 16th 2014
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Charlie has a head for football statistics and can pick winning players out for the various fantasy leagues he is in. His best friend, Anna, is the granddaughter of Joe Warren, the owner of the Los Angeles Bulldogs. The team hasn't been doing very well, and has become the object of ridicule on local radio shows. Anna thinks that Charlie should do his own podcast in support of the team, and encourages him to talk about the players he thinks might help. Charlie has crunched the numbers and has some ideas for players that the Bulldogs should consider adding-- and mentions them to Joe. On of these is Tom Pinkett, whom everyone seems to think is too old, but whom Joe had rather wanted on the team. The general manager, Anna's Uncle Matt, disagreed. Tom is eventually brought onto the team, and later, another wild card picked by Charlie, the injured bad boy Sack Sutton, is brought on as well. The national media picks up on Charlie's involvement, and Joe feels that if he and Matt shy away from the publicity, it will look bad, so Charlie is invited to all the games. It doesn't help that Joe is fighting lymphoma, and his relationship with Matt is a delicate one. Charlie is leery of all of the attention because it takes a lot of time, and he's still trying to keep up with school and his own lukewarm career in Pop Warner football, where he is a big help to the coach but not as good on the field as he would like. Will Charlie's talents help him out in the long run, or cause him more troubles than they are worth?
Strengths: Lots and lots of good information on football strategies and statistics. There are game descriptions for the Bulldogs as well as Charlie's Pop Warner games. I love that Anna is such a strong female character-- she knows her football, she likes technology, and she and Charlie have an easy friendship where they both respect the other. Tweens will love the brush with fame that Charlie has, and the family relationships are all positive and strong, even when less than ideal. This will never make it back to the shelf in my library, since it has so many elements for which students ask.
Weaknesses: There's a bit too much discussion of Charlie's longing for his absent father for my taste, but Lupica does manages to stop just short of being maudlin about it. It does lay the foundation for Charlie's nice friendship with Joe.
Marvelous Middle Grade
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