Review Detail

Kids Fiction 557
Learning on the field and off
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
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.
Good Points
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.
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