4.0 2
by Sandra Neil Wallace

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Former ESPN sportscaster Sandra Neil Wallace makes her young adult debut with a historical fiction novel that School Library Journal recommends to fans of Friday Night Lights in a starred review.
Felix “Red” O’Sullivan’s world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of

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Former ESPN sportscaster Sandra Neil Wallace makes her young adult debut with a historical fiction novel that School Library Journal recommends to fans of Friday Night Lights in a starred review.
Felix “Red” O’Sullivan’s world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town and his high school with it. But Red’s got his own burdens to bear: his older brother, Bobby, died in the war, and he’s been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobby’s old position as quarterback and leading the last-ever Muckers team to the championship.
But the only way for the hardscrabble Muckers to win State is to go undefeated and tackle their biggest rival, Phoenix United, which would be something of a miracle. Luckily, miracles can happen all the time on the field.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Former ESPN newscaster and Little Joe author Wallace presents an unsettling yet inspiring novel, based on true events, about a racially mixed high-school football team’s last season. Set in the autumn of 1950 in the grim mining town of Hatley, Ariz., the story is narrated by quarterback Felix “Red” O’Sullivan, who carries too many burdens on his slight five-foot-seven frame: grief over his brother Bobby’s death at Iwo Jima five years earlier; sorrow over his mother’s resulting mental deterioration; resentment at his embittered father; and the weight of the “scrappy but undersized” Muckers’ final chance to win the state championship. With the mine nearly barren, Red’s graduating class will be the last for Hatley High. Wallace deftly depicts the atmosphere of an era when segregation—in Hatley, between Mexicans and “Anglos”—was standard, the Korean War had just begun, and anti-communism was on the rise. While football fans will savor the play-by play descriptions, Wallace provides enough emotional drama to create a rich work of historical fiction that will draw in even those without an interest in the sport. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
An unlikely championship is within the grasp of a ragtag group of students just as the mine that supports their town prepares to close. Felix "Red" O'Sullivan is the best hope to lead his team to a statewide football championship. Unlike other teams in 1950 in Arizona, whites and Latinos play together on the Hartley Muckers. Nevertheless, both groups are aware of the dividing lines: separate Masses, different swimming times at the pool and limits on relationships across the racial divide. Red is also plagued by family difficulties: His father is an alcoholic, and his mother was hospitalized, broken with grief for her older son, who was killed in World War II. For Red, this season will be his last chance to return glory to "Bobby's school." It will be a struggle for a school with barely enough players, and whose field is littered with slag and rocks, to defeat bigger and better-equipped teams even as the town continues its inevitable demise. Based on a true story, this is a richly textured portrayal of a small town coping with the economic, political and racial realities of post–World War II America. The storytelling is enhanced by fictional excerpts from local papers that provide additional insight, including the "Social News & Arrests" column as well as want ads in addition to substantive articles. Distinctive characters and finely drawn specifics of locale and landscape set this football story apart. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
THE BULLETIN, November 2013:
"Wallace makes [her characters] live and breathe through careful attention to the quotidian details of local geography and universal motivators—guilt, friendship, spite, encouragement, anger, and talent." 

Starred Review, School Library Journal, December 2013:
"… fans of H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights (Addison-Wesley, 1990) and other football histories will appreciate this inspiring tale.”

School Library Journal
★ 12/01/2013
Gr 8 Up—Based on the true story of a 1950 scrappy high school football team out of Jerome, Arizona, this novel is about an underdog victory. Felix "Red" O'Sullivan and his friends have grown up in the copper-mining town of Hatley, but the ore has depleted over the years. The town has become so small that Hatley High will be closing at the end of the year and students will begin attending school with their Cottonville rivals. The Muckers football team is the smallest in the state, but Coach Hansen and his players are determined to make their final year one that the whole town will remember. What they don't have in brawn, they make up for in sheer toughness. While the outcome of the state championship is no surprise, the novel's strength lies in the development of its characters, especially Red, who is dealing with the loss of his football-champion brother during World War II and his mother's resulting breakdown. Red also has to fight his town's prejudice when he wants to date the sister of his best friend, a Mexican American. Clips from the local paper will broaden readers' perspectives on both the financial straits that the town is in and the McCarthyism that insidiously threatens the townspeople's cohesion. While the large cast of characters can be hard to keep track of, fans of H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights (Addison-Wesley, 1990) and other football histories will appreciate this inspiring tale.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Muckers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
Red lives in a small Arizona town, one that will soon be just about shut down because the copper has been all been taken from the mine.  This is the last year the town's high school will exist, making the final football season extra special.  The Muckers don't have money for fancy equipment but they are tenacious, going the extra mile at practice to be the best at their sport.  As the Muckers' quarterback, Red feels the weight on his shoulders; can he encourage his teammates to continue fighting their way into the win column?  Add to that the racial tension in town--Red's best friend is Mexican American and Red has feelings for that young man's sister.  Mexicans live in a different part of town from the rest of the town residents so hiding from everyone while feeling the bloom of young love is difficult.  Red's family is almost in crisis mode--moving away, Red getting ready for college, the entire family still grieving the loss of Red's older brother a few years early at Iwo Jima.  Based on the true story.  An engaging story that unfortunately might be a tough sell to teens due to the timeframe in which the story is set.  
TheStephanieLoves More than 1 year ago
There are two things that matter to the town of Hatley, Arizona: mining and football. And that's about it. In 1950, when the copper veins—the town's largest source of labor—begin to dry up and threaten to shut down not only the mine, but also the entire town, the future seems bleak with only the smallest feather of hope remaining: Hatley High School's football team's final season. Set in the grim, desperate backdrop of the Korean War during the second Communist scare, Muckers is a story about the team that had all odds against them, but still found a way to run and fight and survive through the muck—and emerge not only alive, but also triumphant. This is a football story, yes, but it's also a war story, as well as a family story, a love story, a personal story—a very real story. Red O'Sullivan is no stranger to wartime's tragic effects; the last war that swept the globe changed everything in his life, and this new one is about to do the same. As quarterback, he has a sense of dismay knowing his team's the smallest, scrawniest in Arizona, but it's certainly not the weakest—and that's what keeps him holding on, because it may be the only thing Hatley has left. The last time the town saw something so hopeful was when Red's older brother, Bobby, brought home the Northern title nine years back. Now, everyone's counting on Red to redeem the collapsing town, and this just may be his last shot. This book was really slow-paced, which had me skimming a lot; I feel it wouldn't hold the attention of younger readers well. However, I'm a huge fan of sports novels and so I refused to give in too easily, and in the end, I am so, so glad I did. Muckers combines Red's frank, but heartbreakingly tenacious narrative with local newspaper clippings of the time, to expose the untold, valiant history of the real-life Jerome Muckers. Wallace gives careful, stimulating attention to period detail and breathes life into the inspired fictional town of Hatley. There are so many different issues within this book that she handles well, including those on politics, race, the real meaning of family, teamwork, and never giving up; Muckers could really teach our middle and high schoolers about succeeding in even the most disadvantageous of circumstances, just by persevering. I was particularly intrigued by the origins of this novel, explained beautifully in the author's note. This football team literally had nothing left for them, but they fought hard to earn the only type of victory they could reach. The civil rights issues are interesting, as well; while most American high schools at this time were segregated, Jerome, and Hatley, were rare in that it was inhabited by both caucasians and Mexican-Americans. However, even though they all lived together, the racial tensions are still clearly prevalent, and the way the town manages to overcome them—even if only for the sake of the football team—is glittering, exultant. Pros: Raw; hits exactly the right notes // Moving story // Captures the genuine hopes and worries and fears of the age // Vibrant, distinct characters // Forbidden romance sidestory // Detailed, suspenseful sports fiction // Preserves the amazing Muckers football team in literature Cons: On the slow side // The writing style itself isn't particularly impressive Verdict: Friday Night Lights meets Remember the Titans in this highly-charged, visceral young adult novel that has both spirit and soul. Harrowing, eye-opening, and tenderly honest, Muckers masterfully recounts an inspiring story about how one resilient high school football team finds victory through enduring the tragic, unforgiving demands of war and the injustices of racial divide. Sandra Neil Wallace did a marvelous thing by digging up the forgotten letters and faded newspapers that made up this previously overlooked narrative, and bringing it to light. This is the kind of story that deserves a special spot in American football history. Fortunately, through this novel, the Hatley Muckers get the chance to prove themselves, while the real-life Jerome Muckers, in their blazing glory, get the chance to be remembered. Rating: 8 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended. Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!).