Friday, February 03, 2012

Guy Friday-- Football

Barber, Ronde and Tiki. Goal Line.
Primarily written, as pointed out by Mr. Winchell in comments, by Paul Mantell, who should be allowed to write books under his own name!

Twins Ronde and Tiki are starting 8th grade and are very excited to start playing football again, but Ronde is disconcerted to find that his identical twin is 3 inches and many pounds heavier than he is. Suddenly, the team is not rooting for “the Barber twins” but just Tiki. Tiki also writes an essay for a contest and wins, forcing him to read the essay at an assembly. He is approached by the school newspaper to write an advice column, and keeping up with football, class work, and the column prove stressful. Another set of twin players from Haiti help the team, but make the Barbers worry about their worth. The Eagles have a chance to have an undefeated season with the return of Coach Wheeler, and might have a chance to go to the playoffs again, but not unless Tiki can get his priorites in order.
Strengths: I wish there were more sports series for boys. These are the perfect length and have just the right mix of sports and school problems. They do need a little more romance, though!Weaknesses: For some reason, even though these are based off the Barbers’ real lives, there’s always something I can’t quite believe. In this one, it is Tiki having to read his essay at assembly, and the sudden popularity of his advice column. Are there any middle school that even have school newspapers?

Tunis, John. All American. (Nota Bene: Published in 1942)
E ARC from from Open Road Media.

Ronald is a student at a the private Academy and a star on the football team when an attempt to stop Meyer Goldman from making a touchdown results in Goldman being in the hospital with severe back injuries. Wracked by guilt, and increasingly irritated by the attitudes of the students and staff at Academy, Ronald transfers to Abraham Lincoln High School. The transition is tough-- people call him a “pretty boy” and cause him problems until he gets in a fist fight with the nasty Stacey and ends up in the hospital himself. After this, everyone is nicer and Ron plays on both the baseball and football teams. When the football team is invited to an intersectional game in the South, one of the players will not be able to go because the school does not allow Negroes to play. Ronald wants the team to refuse to go, and he has the support of his fellow players, but local businesmen who will lose money if the team does not go put pressure on his father and the fathers of the other players to encourage the team to play. In the end, the team does not bow to this pressure, but end up being uninvited in the South but invited to an intersectional in the North, so everyone is happy.
Strengths: Tunis (1889-1975) always does excellent sports descriptions, and we get football and baseball in this one. The cover alone makes the book worth buying. This is also a good historical description of the plight of African-Americans during this time period. It was fun to read about the fathers talking about the “big game of ‘16” and about Ronald’s lunch: scrambled eggs, potato chips, a piece of pie, bottle of milk and bread and butter, all for 27 cents. Probably considered well balanced, too!
Weaknesses: It was jarring to read “Negro” again and again, and I worry that this will offend readers who don’t know the historical background. Also, since this is from Open Road Media, it is only available as an E Book.

It's funny how small print is an indicator that a book is meant for older audiences. I looked at Caludia Gray's new Fateful, and just couldn't get into it because the print was too small AND it was about werewolves on the Titanic. Lots of people out there need two copies for their libraries, but I don't have the audience for this book this year. Will get this author's Balthazar, however, which comes out March 6. Another one was Hautman's What Boys Really Want, which is usually the kind of realistic fiction I adore, but again, small font (along with more mature subject matter) doomed it.

Another one I really wanted to like was House and Vaswani's Same Sun Here. From the Publisher: " A twelve-year-old Indian immigrant in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner's son become pen pals, and eventually best friends, through a series of revealing letters exploring such topics as environmental activism, immigration, and racism." Again, libraries where Naylor's Faith, Hope and Ivy June is popular will want to have this, but the letter format seemed anachronistic, and I see this being a hard sell at my library. Marjoleine Book Blog and Middle Grade Reads both adored this.

For the past week, I've been longing to reread books. Cleary's Fifteen. Edwards' Mandy. Most recently, Paige Dixon's May I Cross Your Golden River (1975). Someone mentioned it, I remember reading it, and there is not a copy to be found anywhere. This made me think about all of the books I have in my library that are rather aged-- the copy of Mandy (1974) that I have is a first edition. How long will it last? When will all of my copies of Stormbreaker fall to pieces and be irreplacable? I need to teach for 25 more years, so I will not be able to recommend the same books forever.

Second morning this week that gently sobbing seems required.


  1. My son loved that Barber series--I'm going to check this one out for him, too. But what I really wanterd to say was...Mandy. One of my all-time favorite books.

  2. To respond to your request for more sports series for boys, I believe publishers see that market to be too limited. Once they have one in house, they feel signing on more would compete too much with their existing title/author. And think about the fact that this Tiki and Ronde series is, by all accounts and purposes, written by Paul Mantell, but he doesn't even get a mention by most people who review the books.