Jones, Patrick. Out of the Tunnel. (The Red Zone)
September 1st 2014
by Lerner Classroom
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Brian's father, a former football player who never made it as big as he wanted to, encourages Brian to move ahead on the Troy, Ohio football team. When Brian has an opportunity to do this, he is excited, because it makes him part of the inner circle of six starters. What he finds is that this group embraces "traditions" that are harmful and cruel, but manages to elude the discipline of the coach and even town law enforcement. Brian is willing to take part in things like obtaining and drinking alcohol and persuading a girl, Amber, to have a naked picture taken of her (when she is drunk) in order to keep up with the team and please his father, but he is uncomfortable with everything the group does, and his long time friend, Dylan, refuses to participate. This leads to Dylan getting less time of the field and being picked on by the players in the inner circle. When Amber's picture makes the rounds and Amber has to go to another school, Brian has to decide if he can live with himself if he continues to participate in the questionable activities of his teammates.
Strengths: This is an excellent book for reluctant readers, especially older ones. Lots of football details (my rule of thumb: if I don't understand what's going on in the play-by-plays, it must be good, since I know nothing about football!), and a great moral lesson about peer pressure. Fantastic cover! Hope this will be a series of stand alone books!
Weaknesses: Even though there isn't any graphic detail, some would question this book for sixth graders. Yes, Amber's lapse of judgement is disturbing, but maybe even younger students need to learn early on the effects that alcohol can have on judgement, and how this sort of behavior can have lasting, horrible consequences. I do think I'll buy this.
Mercer, Adrienne. Jump Ball.
February 1st 2013 by James Lorimer &Company
Abby is not looking forward to her younger sister coming to school with her, but thinks that they might have fun together on the basketball team. Abby is a bit shy, and Sarah is very outgoing, so Abby feels threatened. When Sarah gets more court time and seems to make friends on the team more easily, Abby fumes openly, but the coach explains that while Abby's skills are already good, Sarah needs some court time to improve. However, Abby continues to feel threatened and shoots herself in the foot by behaving badly on multiple occasions, yelling at Sarah and generally sulking. She manages to run a successful car wash fund raiser, but then yells at Sarah for taking a break. Eventually, she is suspended from the team for poor sportsmanship and finally begins to realize what it means to be a good teammate.
Strengths: There are a lot of good basketball descriptions, and it can be difficult to find basketball books for girls. The girl drama is well done, and should be popular. The adults in particular always do just the right thing when dealing with the students involved, so I appreciated that part.
Weaknesses: Abby had a high slappage factor. I discussed this with a student who read the book, and she agreed, but we both liked the books anyway! A little preachy, but readers who really want a basketball book won't care too much.