Children's Literature - Bruce Adelson
Eddie Ball loves basketball. He hungers to enter a contest sponsored by his mother's employer(sink a free throw and win a million dollars. Eddie's dreams are dashed when he discovers that the contest is closed to employees and their families. However, he receives a bittersweet opportunity when his mother is laid off. Eddie is then picked for the contest after his poem, written by his friend Annie, is selected as the winning entry. Eddie's relationship with Annie, an African-American girl who lives in the same trailer park with her father as the Balls do, is one of the more interesting aspects of this book. Annie and her father, a former college basketball player, help Eddie train for the big day. Eddie's interactions with Annie also bring their single parents together in perhaps a rather fanciful relationship. The book bogs down in the middle as Eddie seems to spend an inordinate amount of time practicing. The event itself is somewhat unrealistic since Eddie's million dollar shot comes from the free throw line, a relatively easy shot to make. This book is a good read even if some aspects are overly wistful. Undoubtedly, basketball playing children will be able to relate to Eddie's situation.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6--Another page-turner from the author of The Kid Who Ran for President (Scholastic, 1996). Eddie Ball, 11, lives with his mother in a cramped trailer in rural Louisiana. Although he dreams of moving to a "regular house," Mrs. Ball's salary at the Finkle Foods Factory is low, and her bills are many. Eddie's best friend is his African-American next-door neighbor and classmate, the poetry-loving, basketball-playing Annie Stokely, who lives with her father. When both adults are laid off from the factory, Eddie enters one of Annie's poems in a poetry contest sponsored by Finkle Foods; the winner gets a chance to sink a foul shot during halftime at the first game of the NBA finals for a million-dollar prize. Early in the book, Eddie wins the poetry contest--but can he make the basket? Shooting lessons from Mr. Stokely improve Eddie's free-throw success rate, but someone seems to be sabotaging the practice sessions. Things become more complicated when Mr. Finkle visits Eddie, admits that his company is having financial troubles, and offers him a bribe to throw an air ball. Gutman expertly builds up suspense to the moment of the shot, milking the throw itself for several delightfully agonizing pages. The story, with occasional basketball tips well woven into the narrative, will appeal to both sports readers and general audiences. Gutman's subtle humor, exciting sports action, and excruciating suspense make this title an outstanding choice for reluctant readers.--Denise E. Agosto, Midland County Public Library, TX