Friday, August 23, 2019


Feinstein, John. Benchwarmers
August 27th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Jeff is not sure he's going to make the newly created 6th grade soccer team; he's not a great player, and his forte is backetball. He's even more doubtful about his chances when Andi Carrillo tries out, because she is every bit as good as blowhard Ron Arlow. Even though there is a girl's field hockey team, Andi is a soccer player, and the principal doesn't see a problem with her trying out for the team. Coach Johnson, however, does. He talks to the principal as well, and wants support for his decision, which ends up to not let Andi on the team. He tells her and the principal, separately, that it is not about her playing-- he thinks a girl's presence on the team would be divisive, and not the best thing for the team. Andi doesn't think this is right at all, but her lawyer parents know that there's really no good course legally. Luckily, Jeff's father is a sportscaster who does local interest pieces, and he manages to get his station interested. Another reported does an Internet piece that arouses a lot of interest, and Coach Johnson is forced to let her play, since she should have made the team based on her skills. There are a few boys, like Arlow, who don't want her on the team, but most are glad to have her contribute. When Coach J. doesn't play her, though, she can't help the team. It takes some convincing, and a few scuffles within the team and with other teams, but Andi's skills can't be denied. Jeff struggles with playing time as well, but works hard and improves a lot. Andi does miss some play time because she is kicked in the head during a play and everyone follows proper concussion protocol, including a doctor's visit the next morning. When the local championship comes down to the Mustangs versus KP-North, whose coach is even less thrilled about girls playing in the league, Andi and the boys have to not only play a great soccer game but watch for dirty tricks. Have they grown enough as a team to work together to do this?
Strengths: The best part of this book, for me, was that everything that happened seemed realistic. The principal followed procedure, the coach wasn't happy but was within his rights, the news media got involved, things changed. The boys were pretty much okay with Andi, but a few weren't, and when she was attacked, they got angry because she was their teammate. It's even realistic that Coach Johnson realizes what a jerk he was! I'd like to say that there aren't any more chauvinistic coaches and teachers out there, but just four years ago I had to go talk to a history teacher of my daughter's because he repeatedly made really sexist remarks! There were girls on other teams in the book where it hadn't been an issue-- this was just all well done. Jeff's last rung place on the team was also well played, and the friendship and slight romance between him and Andi warmed my heart. There are not a lot of good soccer books out there, so this is a great addition for ALL of my soccer loving students.
Weaknesses: I think the time has come to move beyond situations where girls want to play soccer/football/basketball on boys' teams and just DO. We're there. I really think we are.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Feinstein just keeps getting better and better; The Sports Beat books were good, but The Backfield Boys and The Prodigy were phenomenal!

So, apparently, I collect clothes in the way that some people collect dolls. Blogging about my fashion choices is a little embarrassing, because I have a LOT of clothes that are older than my students!

I bought this navy sheath dress in 2000 for a trip to Boston, and I wore the jacket when I first started teaching at Blendon... in 2002! I know this because I won a prize for summer reading at the Westerville Public Library the summer before I started, and a couple of us had our picture in the paper. I was wearing this jacket!

The 1970s Trifari angelfish pin is a new acquisition, $2 at the Ohio Thrift Store.

Oh, isn't the internet a wonderful place? Look what I found when I searched for the maker of the jacket, Suburban Petites: You can buy your own! Trust me, I did not pay $60 for this!

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