BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Travel Team by Mike Lupica

Travel TeamIf it’s Saturday, it must be time to head to a court, field, gym, pool, or some sort of athletic facility … although sometimes, the parents are more invested in the outcomes than their athlete children, ahem!

Meet Danny Walker, a 12-year-old 7th-grader who breathes basketball, thanks in no small part to his mostly absent father, Richie Walker, a local basketball legend who made it to the NBA, only to have his career cut short by a devastating car accident. In spite of his diminutive size, Danny is a powerhouse on the court – which is why everyone is surprised when he doesn’t make the travel team, the Vikings.

Jeffrey Ross, quite possibly the most important resident of Middletown (at least in his own eyes), wants the Vikings to get “bigger” this year. His son Ty is the town’s best ball player, but unlike his father, Ty is also one the nicest, most considerate kids ever. While the Ross and Walker men have carried on a life-long rivalry, their sons have managed to be close friends … as well as great teammates. So much for gaining maturity and wisdom in old age!

Tired of his peripatetic, rootless life, Richie Walker returns to Middletown, just in time to put Danny back on the court … by forming another travel team. Yes, The Bad News Bears comes to mind immediately. What the brand new Warriors lack in talent and experience, they make up in tenacity and camaraderie … not to mention the one girl recruit who’s going to help save the team.

So the story is sweet, complete with an effective useful message to both kids and parents. Still, a few small worrisome details did not go unnoticed: Danny’s mother is just too perfect to be more than single-dimensional, Danny’s favorite friend-who-happens-to-be-a-girl is impossibly wise beyond her 12 years, Danny’s comments about girls’ body size in the future seem out of place for his age, and marking the ethnicity of only the (very) few people of color proved jarring (“cool black guy” Coach Kel, the one “Chinese girl” from a rival school).

Perhaps I notice too much … would your average 12-year-old notice? Probably not. Besides, it’s Saturday … it’s all about the game, race, tournament, match, meet, etc. For the kids, that is. We adults will only be cheering on our athletes without expectations, just sharing their gleeful joy.

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2004



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