A few weeks ago I brought in an assortment of sports novels for my 7th graders. Among the titles were several by Mike Lupica and Tim Green. I’ve never been a sports fan, though I did enjoy Friday Night Lights in all its forms, so I asked those who read them which one I would like better, Tim Green or Mike Lupica. They suggested Mike Lupica and I picked his novel Travel Time.
I confess, I did a lot of skimming. I enjoyed the novel, but there was so much play-by-play, far too much for me.
But is that what students who read sports novels want, play-by-play?
There are always a handful of students, usually boys but not always, who read sports novels each year, but there’s never been a large group. Back when I used to do classroom book clubs, sports novels were always a hard sell. They keep publishing them so there must be a market; that market is just not me.
I could have picked one about baseball or football, so it’s partially my fault. I’ve long had issues with basketball. I’ve been six five most of my life, so in school I constantly got “You should play basketball, you’re so tall.” Which is just what a kid, uncomfortable about standing out, uninterested in sports of any kind, wants to hear. Maybe I was testing Mr. Lupica.
Travel Team is about an excellent basketball player who is not selected for his towns travel team because he is smaller than the other boys. His former professional basketball playing ne’er-do-well father is back in his family’s life, so the two start a team of their own.
I liked the family story. Young Danny lives with his mother with whom he has an excellent relationship. She is skeptical of her husband, who left them both after failing as a basketball player and becoming an alcoholic. But Danny’s father loves him and is trying to put his life together enough so that he can stay in town this time and really be a father. It was nice to have a YA character with two loving parents who were both basically successful at parenting if not at everything in life.
So, I enjoyed the off-court story. There’s probably just enough of it to satisfy sports fans without annoying them by keeping them away from what the came for, the game.
It was just too much game for me.
80% Basketball/20% off court drama
- Too much play by pay for me, but probably just the right amount for others.
- Touching father/son and mother/son sub-plot.
- Can only tall people be good at basketball?