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Gunner, Football Hero

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the first half of this tale of an aspiring Pee Wee football star, Ransome (What Lincoln Said) has never been funnier or looser. From the very first page, in which the pear-shaped, beak-nosed Gunner strikes the famous Heisman pose and almost pulls it off through sheer force of personality, it's clear this is an unlikely hero worth knowing. But for all of Gunner's charisma, the third-string quarterback can't compensate for the story's saggy second half. Ransome's play by play of the big game, when Gunner finally gets a chance to play, feels almost clinical ("The running backs ran. Gunner passed, the receivers caught, and the offensive slowly moved down the field"). Although there are some stirring images of pigskin glory, especially a game-changing interception, there are also some striking disconnects between text and art. "Everyone on the Malden Tigers side of the field CHEERED!" shouts the narrator when Gunner throws a touchdown-scoring pass; meanwhile the crowd is shown sitting quietly, devoid of emotion. Readers will start out rooting for Gunner, but they may leave before the game is over. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
We meet young Gunner in a tale to inspire those who long to play football, however unlikely it may appear. When he signs up for the team, the coaches and teammates laugh at Gunner, until they see him throw a pass; he is named third-string quarterback. In the season, Gunner faithfully attends the games and studies the playbook, encouraged by his parents, but he remains on the bench. In the final game, however, he is sent in, with amazing, exciting, and surprising results followed by a really shocking ending. The comic sensibilities of this tale of the creation of a hero is reinforced by Ransome with drawings of the many faces in the crowd along with the expressions of pain of the injured players. Single and double-page scenes of the plays on the field, including one requiring the turning of the book on its side, are realistic, contrasting with the overarching humor of the situation. The looseness of the watercolor brushstrokes adds to the liveliness of the visual tale. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Gunner loves football and dreams of playing quarterback in spite of being too short and too round. He devotes himself completely to the sport and with hard work lands a spot as third-string quarterback on the town's Pee Wee team. The watercolor cartoon illustrations, done in oranges, blues, and browns, beautifully capture the light and mood of autumn, putting readers in the football spirit, but Gunner seems to change size and shape from page to page, and many of the players look far older than Pee Wee team age. The story leads up to Gunner finally getting a chance to play in the big game, but the ending holds a blitz of surprises. Sometimes text and pictures conflict in a confusing way, such as on the last page, where the illustration shows the boy's father reading the newspaper while the text indicates that Gunner is doing the reading. Overall, this is a lively story, but it isn't one of Ransome's best.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews

Though his arm lands him a spot on the team as third-string quarterback, short, round Gunner seems to have been glued to the bench. Despite this seeming neglect, Gunner's spirits never flag, and neither does the support of his parents, who root for him from the stands even though they don't much care for sports. His chance to play quarterback in the last moments of the last game of the season feels like a victory, even though his would-be gamewinning pass is intercepted—and there's no doubt that Gunner's rookie-of-the-year trophy is richly deserved. The simple, economical narrative supposes a fair amount of familiarity with football but certainly conveys the thrill of Gunner's short time on the field. Though text and illustration don't quite match up in a couple of instances, Ransome's watercolor-and-line drawings as well as page layouts are appropriately full of action, and the faces of the players and crowds engagingly expressive and humorous. Nearly a touchdown; definitely a field goal. (Picture book. 4-7)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823420537
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/15/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 643,150
  • Age range: 4 - 7 Years
  • Lexile: AD860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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