Yes--there's a lot of drama in sports and it's captured in Nora Raleigh Baskin's Basketball (or Something Like It). Baskin catches the action, drama, and fun of playing basketball and it's told from the perspective of four unlikely friends.
The book begins with Hank, listening in on his parents' conversation how the basketball coach is deliberately scheduling clinics to conflict with Hank's soccer playoffs, so the coach's own son will come out looking better. Hank's parents are a bit controlling, insisting that Hank play every game, and that the coach should be fired. We've all seen a player like this on one team or another.
Next is Nathan. Nathan is not very good at basketball, but he brags to his parents that he is. After all, he's the only black kid in the whole North Bridge sixth grade. Throughout the season, Nathan tells his parents how great he is, but will he be able to pull of his lie when his parents show up at the final game of the season?
Then there's Jeremy. Jeremy is a great player who temporarily lives with his grandmother after moving from the city to North Bridge. However, feeling a bit isolated and alone in North Bridge, Jeremy really doesn't want to play basketball this year. But with a little nudging and a payoff from his grandmother, Jeremy agrees to try out.
To add a bit of a girl factor to the story, we also have Anabel. Anabel's brother, Michael plays on the team and Anabel has been dragged to every game since she could remember. Anabel knows that basketball could be fun if you take out the parents, the arguments, the tension, and the expectations.
What I really enjoyed about this story were the characters and the alternating third-person narratives. Anyone who has ever played on a sports team will be able to relate to them, feel for them, and cheer for them. It's interesting to see how sports affect each young athlete differently--from parents living vicariously through their children, the pressure of trying to impress parents, and girls being cast aside while sports expectations are placed on sons.The team endures some humiliating losses, the loss of coach after coach, and the reality of putting up with demanding parents, but in the end, the theme of team and friendship prevails. A great read for any sports fan!
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 30, 2007)