"Eric Walters' characterizations are excellent...This is a story I hope will be read by more than just its target audience."
Canadian Book Review Annual
The school basketball team for which Sam Campbell plays is a perennial loser. Even worse, the team name, the Laggan Lairds, causes more confusion than school spirit. During a particularly intense game, one of the opposing players suggests that the name should be changed to Laggan Lard Butts. When his school starts an election to select a new name, Sam suggests Lard Butts as a joke. When the team starts winning, Sam's joke name starts gathering a following and begins to have a definite chance of winning. Sam must decide whether to withdraw the name or potentially play the championship as a Lard Butt. Part of the Orca Currents series for middle grade readers, this book is written with the reluctant reader in mind. The font is large, there is little exposition and lots of action, the language is easy, and there is plenty of white space on the page. Even so, Walters occasionally slips in a higher-level word that can be easily decoded using context clues. The book's setting is Canada, but other than a few glaring differences (such as the description of the flag outside the school and the combined elementary/middle school that Sam attends), the story could take place in any American middle school. The basketball scenes are well written and action packed. It would be an excellent book to put in the hands of a reluctant male reader. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Orca, 112p., and Trade pb. Ages 11 to 15.
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Eighth-grader Sam Campbell's Laggan public school basketball team rarely wins. During a game, Sam bristles at an opponent's taunt that Sam's inept team should be called the Lard Butts instead of their formal name, the Lairds, meaning lords and sounding similar to the word "lard." When Sam remarks that a different name might boost team morale, Coach Davidson, who teaches social studies, suggests holding a school-wide election to select a different name as part of a lesson examining democracy. Sam and his antagonist, former girlfriend Sarah, lead rival efforts, creatively campaigning for their names to be chosen among several proposed by classmates. Embracing the provocative name "Lard Butts," Sam and twin players, Tanner and Taylor, vie against Sarah and her friends who push for the more respectable name "Leopards". Their conversations with principal McGregor, particularly regarding inventive campaign tactics, and Sam's witty sense of humor add to this novel's comic tone. With good natured, Sam encourages his teammates, emphasizing their athletic strengths and refusing to give up on them. Their teamwork and perseverance are rewarded with a playoff berth in the finals. Speaking at an assembly prior to voting, Sam stresses that although Laggan players usually lose, they never quit. Pair with Betty Hicks' novel, I Smell Like Ham (2002). A book in the "Orca Currents" series, appealing to reluctant readers.
Read an Excerpt
Our school teams always lost. It didn't matter what sport—basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball or hockey—we sucked at them all. I'd been on all our school teams every year since grade six and we'd never had a winning team. Forget winning team, we'd hardly ever had a win.