Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Play Makers by Mike Lupica

(Game Changers #2) 201 p. Scholastic Press, February, 2013. 9780545381833. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

"Just like that, it was basketball season." Within two weeks of winning the football championship, Ben finds himself facing a new rival at a pre-season basketball scrimmage. Chase Braggs seems to have all the moves and, what's more, seems to anticipate all of Ben's moves. Ben can respect that and is determined to work on his skills to get better, but Chase is cocky and confident and likes to strut his stuff. Ben lets this get under his skin, especially when Chase sets his sights on Lily, Ben's best friend.

Book #2 in this middle grade series can stand alone but Lupica's many middle grade fans will not want to miss any of it. Ben is a likable sixth grader and a consummate competitor. He's quite self-aware and analytical about most aspects of his life, but most especially the three sports he loves, football, basketball and baseball (#3, Heavy Hitters, due out in February, 2014). The dialogue flows smoothly and the sports action is brisk. Two small quibbles: First, Ben and Lily's friendship/ conversations sound a bit too old, like old married couple old. Second, Ben's a bit small for his age and the player on the cover and in the interior shots does not appear to be a small eleven-year-old. He's a bit too big, a bit too bulky for eleven.

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