Sunday, September 23, 2018

Friday Night Stage Lights

Alpine, Rachel. Friday Night Stage Lights
September 18th 2018 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Brooklyn and her mother had lived in Oregon, where Brooklyn was heavily involved in ballet, until her mother met Stephen, married him, and moved to Texas because his son Tanner was a high school student heavily invested in football. Brooklyn has a new studio, a new best friend, and even a workout area in the basement, complete with a mirror and barre, but it is still a difficult adjustment. Since Tanner is very talented, a lot of time is spent going to his games and planning his upcoming college career. Brooklyn would really like to get into the Texas School of the Arts, and is looking forward to dancing in a show with her partner Jayden in order to bring herself to the attention of the recruiters. It's bad enough when Jayden breaks his leg, but when the failing middle school football team's coach decides that the athletes' game skills could be improved by some ballet training, Brooklyn feels like she will never escape this all-consuming sport. Some of the football players, like Randy, don't take the ballet training seriously, but Logan tells his teammates not to act like jerks, and sees that the training really does help his game. The teacher, Mary Rose, even encourages Brooklyn to ask him to be her partner, and he agrees, under the condition that Brooklyn will learn more about football. Logan's dancing is pretty good, and Brooklyn learns to understand a bit more about the game. She also learns to get along better with Tanner, who has issues of his own to deal with. A falling out with Mia doesn't help, and Brooklyn is afraid to dance a solo, but when the high school championship game is on the same day as her show, she tells Logan he doesn't have to miss it to support her. How will she manage to keep ballet and football in her life?
Strengths: This is a great book for all readers interested in dance OR football, and the cover is wonderful. I love that the difficulties of both ballet and football are discussed in sports terms, but some of the boys are realistically jerky. There isn't really a romance between Logan and Brooklyn, even though Logan is super sweet and even gives Brooklyn a mum, which is apparently a thing in Texas. They just seem to enjoy hanging out together like teammates and good friends. The blended family story was positive, but didn't gloss over the difficulties. The fight with Mia is completely understandable, but it is still nice when they make up.
Weaknesses: This could have been a tiny bit shorter and more focused, with less of Brooklyn's drama. She was sometimes a tiny bit entitled and unpleasant. A tiny bit.
What I really think: Can't wait to hand this one to the boys. Again, it's all well and good to say that all books are for all readers, but having just spent a day at a book give away event, watching parents push aside the truck books for their daughters in favor of pink titles and push aside books with kittens on them to grab Spider man for their sons, I fully realize that students come to me preprogrammed.

Green, Tim. The Big Game
August 14th 2018 by HarperCollins
School library copy

Danny lives in Texas with his mother and former Pittsburgh Steelers player father, who now sells farm machinery. The father pushes Danny to be great at the game, and he's also a fairly nice, polite kid. When the father dies of a heart attack while out on a run with Danny, life changes. Danny gets into trouble pushing Markle, a jerky kid on his team, and the school starts to pay attention to him. His language arts teacher, Ms. Rait, catches his cheating on a test and starts to realizes that Danny can't really read. With the help of a school counselor and Danny's coach, she puts together a plan to help Danny with his reading, but Danny is struggling with so many anger issues that he and his mother pull him out a couple of times, feeling that the school should continue to "help" him by turning a blind eye to his academic failings. When Danny develops a stress fracture in his foot and is out of the game for a long time, his mother finally sees that school is important, since the father was injured during his pro career and really didn't have a back up plan. Danny's friends, Cupcake and Janey, try to help him out, but there's trouble when other players plan a prank that ends with Ms. Rait's house catching on fire, and Danny is at the scene because he was trying to stop the perpetrators. Everything works out, but the road ahead for Danny will be a long one as he struggles with both his learning difficulties and the traumatic after effects of his father's sudden death.

Green always manages to combine descriptive football plays with well developed characters and current social concerns. I'm pretty sure my readers pick the books up for the covers and the fact that Mr. Green played for the Philadelphia Eagles, and it's nice that they get some life lessons imparted in between the punts and passes. Cupcake is a fun friend whose presence lightens Danny's dire circumstances, and he is a stalwart supported of his friend. While Janey isn't as much a go-getter as some of Green's other female characters, she isn't Danny's girlfriend, but rather someone with who he hangs out and plays video games, which is a refreshing change.

Danny's learning disabilities and the way the school has handled them seem a tiny bit unlikely, but are definitely realistically portrayed. Danny has a lot of coping skills that he has used to squeak by in his classes, and I was able to believe that he could make it into middle school with a very low level of reading comprehension. Ms. Rait's methods of assessing his abilities and remediation attempts are good for young people to understand. The teacher also has a leg brace; this isn't addresses very much, but at one time she does gently remind the boys that "handicapped" is not a term that people use these days.

Like Carl Deuker and Rich Wallace, Tim Green does a great job of providing vivid scenes of football games to help make the more serious scenes more palatable, and crafts a book that has a lot of appeal for both young sports enthusiasts and a thorough explanation of more serious issues for older readers who recommend books.

1 comment:

  1. I was eyeing Friday Night Stage Lights. It looked adorable. Good luck getting your boys to give it a try.