Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Love Double Dutch!

27508719Spicer-Dannelly, Doreen. Love Double Dutch
April 3rd 2018 by Random House
E ARC graciously provided by author upon request

Kayla and her friends jump double dutch and plan to spend the summer in their Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood preparing for the National Jump-off at Madison Square garden. Kayla knows she's good enough, so when her parents, who have been fighting a lot, tell her that they are sending her to her aunt's in North Carolina for the summer, she's crushed. There's nothing to be done, however, and Kayla and her little brother Cameron are ensconced at their Aunt Jeanie's large and beautiful home in a well-to-do neighborhood. It's been deciding that while Cameron and the younger cousins are going to be helping install a pool in the yard, Kayla and her cousin Sally will be attending a summer sports camp. Sally, with whom Kayla has fought in the past, isn't thrilled about this, but Kayla is glad to see that there is double dutch! She signs up for a team with Sally before she finds out that her cousin was kicked off her team, the Bouncing Belles, and that the teammates are all very mean to her. Sally reluctantly agrees to participate, and Kayla rounds up Marissa and Tina to complete the team. The other girls haven't jumped before, but intensive practice, along with Kayla and Sally's superior skills, bring the team up to speed. The Double Deuces are able to perform well enough at the local competition that sponsors are willing to send them to the competition in New York... if the Belles combine with the Deuces. With the help of two coaches who have a history of their own, all of the girls are able to come together and assemble a routine for the national championship.

In addition to excellent details about double dutch, a sport which seems to be enjoying a resurgence, there is a lot of very good friend and family drama. Judging from the number of my daughters' friends who had parents who divorced during their children's middle school years, this is a life changing event that affects many middle grade readers. Visiting cousins for the summer also comes with challenges, especially when the North-South dichotomy that is so much a part of the African-American experience comes in to play. I did especially enjoy that, for a change, the socioeconomic status of the family in the South an improvement over the family in the North! Usually, the "big city" offers more advantages than the usually rural South, so this was a nice twist.

The meanness, jockeying for social position, and competing over boys that occur in so many of the interactions that tweens have are realistically portrayed. Kayla has a crush on Charlie, but not just because he's cute. She also likes his confidence, and he is undeterred that she is not pink and sparkly like her cousin. There are some sweet scenes, like the one at a school dance, that will definitely appeal to lots of middle grade readers.

The sports details are excellent, and I learned a lot about the different facets of competition, from timed jumps to putting together routines. While it seemed slightly unusual that girls new to the sport would be good quickly enough to travel to a national competition, it makes for an intriguing story line. There was also some information about step-dancing that might intrigue some of my readers, since there are some teams at our high school. Double dutch is not popular in my area, but since so many of my readers like sports books, I think they will enjoy the aspects of jumping that are similar to other sports-- teamwork, grueling practices, and competition.

My least favorite part of the book was probably Kayla's sassy attitude, but it certainly does make an impression on her aunt, cousin and new friends! While it's a bit over the top, she does grow quite a bit over the course of the book, and does learn to get along with others much more effectively.

This first novel is a welcome addition to the body of humorous, realistic sports books and is an excellent purchase for all middle school libraries. Kayla's struggles with family, friends, and teammates will captivate readers, and her love of double dutch might cause some of them to dust off their jump ropes!

35297612Lupica, Mike. Team Players (Home Team #4)
April 3rd 2018 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Cassie, whom we last saw in Point Guard, is ready to play softball now that school is out and 8th grade is over. Her dad is coaching, and a new girl, Sarah, joins the team. The problem? Sarah is on the autism spectrum and really struggles to communicate with the others on the team. This adds to the ever growing girl drama of which Cassie is very tired. Her friends Jack and Teddy have their own problems on their baseball team-- their coach is also a player's father, and seems to think that the team's purpose is to provide a vehicle for the glory of Sam. He's a difficult and unhelpful coach for all of the other boys, which makes practice and games not very fun. Sarah is an excellent player, but blows up when things seem unfair-- in one instance, a player calls the ball but then misses it and blames Sarah. Cassie is the only one who believes Sarah, so the team is divided. Cassie tries really hard to be friends with Sarah. The boys also work through their problems with the coach, who is eventually let go, leaving Jack to coach the team to victory.
Strengths: I was glad to see a portrayal of a character on the autism spectrum playing a sport, and Lupica's descriptions of Sarah's behavior certainly fall within believable bounds. While Sarah's problems with dealing with her teammates are worse than most of the students with whom I have worked, autism is a spectrum, and no two students react the same way to things.
Weaknesses: Slow and sad. See below.
What I really think: Again, I wish these were less message heavy and more fun. This was on the long side, and could have been shorter without the constant rehashing of problems. My readers who like sports books generally like something more fast paced and fun. Yes, there can be problems (Deuker's Heart of a Champion, about a boy dying of cancer, is a perennial favorite), but the Home Team books seem to discuss the problems too much. I'll purchase, because this is book four in a series by an author my students love, but it's not my favorite.

1 comment:

  1. I ordered Double Dutch not too long ago--I don't think competitive double dutch popular in our area, but I think the book will be popular. Glad to read this review.