King of the Bench: Control Freak

King of the Bench: Control Freak
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
September 12, 2017
ISBN
0062203320
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Steve is King of the Bench. No brag. That’s just a fact. And this season, Steve and his friends are ready to sit on the sidelines of the Spiro T. Agnew Middle school football field. But then they stumble upon an old-school video game controller, and they become convinced it can control sports plays. With it, Steve might become King of Football too!

Oh, and if you’re wondering why Steve would write a book and tell complete strangers about a mysterious magic device that pretty much controlled his first season on the football team, too bad! It’s a strict rule when writing a book that you have to build suspense first.

Editor review

1 review
Video Games and Football
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
4.0
In No Fear, Steve warms the bench for baseball, he gets roped into being on the football team. He has no athletic ability, but he does have something that may benefit the team and help them make the championships-- he has an old video game controller that he suspects might be magic, and he uses it to control his teammates on the field when things get bleak. He's not entirely sure, mind you, but it seems like the controller does work on people. Steve manages to get a position as "place kick holder", mainly because Becky O'Callahan is the place kicker, and Steve has an enormous crush on her. The Mighty Plumbers struggle through their season, but Steve becomes increasingly worried about using the controller-- whenever he does, it might win points, but it seems to result in an injury to a team member. By the end of the season, things are so desperate that Steve is sent in. He begs a friend to get the controller out of his closet, injuries be damned, and manages to do quite well. Was it the controller, or his own skill?
Good Points
Steve is realistically goofy, and the story progresses in a logical fashion with lots of non sequitur asides that are meant just to be funny. The coach and Steve's team mates are goofy, as are the teams they play against. The controller is handled in a way that makes sense-- it doesn't really control people, does it? Or... can it? Steve know better, yet had his reasons for believing. Goofy, yes, but in a way that I think middle grade readers can appreciate. Give this to fans of Pastis' Timmy Failure, Barnes' The Terrible Two, Fry's The Odd Squad or Meyerhoff's The Barftastic Life of Louie Berger.

Younger readers will also enjoy the goofy side of this book. The names include Coach Earwax and The Enron Middle School Screaming Bulls, and the very idea of the video game controller having any effect on Steve's team is a bit far fetched.

We need a lot more books like this-- notebook novels about sports that actually have a plot, no matter how slight. Every elementary library and most middle school libraries need this title.
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