Gr 5-7-A contrived plot and two-dimensional characters render this a disappointing addition to the sports-fiction genre. Sixth-grader River Jacobs is passionate about basketball and dreams of some day playing for the WNBA. She tries out for the team that will participate in a state tournament but doesn't make it. After her initial disappointment, she and the others who were cut form a team of their own, calling themselves the Hoop Girlz. There are several threads running through the story, some of which remain undeveloped. River's parents scoff at competitiveness, for example, but their attitude doesn't really impact on the story, and her 14-year-old brother becomes the team's coach, showing the leadership qualities of an adult. Add to the mix a haunted house in the town and its mysterious owner, and a miraculous turnaround in Coach Glover's personality and you have the book's convenient plot. Underlying all are platitudes about perseverance, dedication, and the need to follow your dreams. Maureen Holohan's Friday Nights (Broadway Ballplayers, 1997) is a more enjoyable read.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
An 11-year-old girl who lives to play basketball creates her own team, the Hoop Girlz, when she's not selected to be on the town's A-list squad. River Borowitz-Jacobs adores basketball. So when tough-minded Coach Wally Glover recruits sixth-grade girls to play in the Oregon Coast Tournament, an opportunity that will afford one talented child a shot at free basketball camp, River is at the tryouts. But Coach "play to win" Glover feels that River lacks the necessary "mental fortitude," so she doesn't make the cut. After her initial devastation, River bounces back and creates her own team made up of Glover's rejects, including a girl in a wheelchair and a teammate's little sister. Aided by her older brother Zack, who turns out to be a shrewd and savvy coach, the Hoop Girlz learn not only how to strategize and work together as a unit, but also how to have "fun, fun, fun" while doing it. The story is so familiar that readers will almost be able to hear the theme music in the background as River's team overcomes obstacles and prepares for the big meet. Still, the formula works, the ride is enjoyable, and Bledsoe (Cougar Canyon, 2001, etc.) throws in a few minor surprises to keep young bookworms on their toes. Although the material is slightly marred by an undercooked subplot involving Coach Glover's daughter, Bledsoe is able to transmit her most important point, the pure love of playing, which River likens to going "through a secret door" and entering the "magical kingdom of basketball." Tailor-made for the high-interest, low-reading level audience, too. (Fiction. 10-14)