Friday, March 08, 2019

Nikki on the Line

Roberts, Barbara Carroll. Nikki on the Line
March 5th 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Nikki is looking forward to playing on a competitive travel basketball team, especially since her friend Adria is also on it. It's a struggle for her single mother to afford the fees, but basketball is what Nikki really loves. In order to help out, Nikki offers to babysit her high-energy younger brother after school. School is a bit of a struggle for Nikki, so she hopes to be able to have time to fit everything in. When her science teacher assigns a family tree project, she is upset for another reason; her mother had both children through artificial insemination and she doesn't want anyone to know. Another student, Booker, also doesn't want to do the project because his parents were drug addicts who abandoned him, and his kindergarten teacher adopted him. Nikki has a very motivated teammate, Kate, who has a very pushy father who wants to see Kate get a college scholarship. When Nikki overhears the two talking about Kate's lack of height and wondering why she is wasting everyone's time, this undermines her confidence and she starts to back off from taking shots. She starts to think that maybe she should add different skills to her game, and decides that the team could use someone who can make good three point shots. She doesn't want to tell Adria about this, since Adria's father has always coached her, so she asks Booker for help. When her grades drop, her mother threatens to make her go back to a county league. Nikki struggles with the challenges of balancing school work, team activities and friendship, as well as her new knowledge about her father, in this fast-paced, valued-added sports novel.
Strengths: My rule of thumb for a great sports novel: are there enough details about the sport that I don't quite understand all of it? Then there are enough details for the readers who play those sports! This had basketball galore, but also important middle grade issues like personal identity, friendship diffictulties and school/life balance. I actually know a 6th grade boy whose biological background is similar, and I may recommend this to his mother. Nikki's reactions to everything are spot on, her struggles with her younger brother relatable, and her slight romance with Booker really charming. I also adored Booker's father and the fact that Booker has a lot of chores. There are never, ever enough books about sports for children, especially girls' sports, and this is just perfect.
Weaknesses: Sure, Nikki's mother is a college research librarian and likes to read, but she went to a lot of trouble to have her children, and when she wanted to finish a book rather than play basketball with Nikki, that didn't seem right! She seemed oddly disconnected from the children. Will young readers notice this? No. But I know I made a point to always drop everything for my girls, and they went to haircuts and the grocery store with me, as well! They are both away from home now, so that may be why I found this disconcerting. Just miss them!
What I really think: Can I justify buying two copies?? Yes. Yes I can.

Ms. Yingling

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