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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 4^-6. When Eddie Ball wins a poetry contest sponsored by a local candy company, he gets a chance to earn a million dollars by sinking a free throw at an NBA finals game. Gutman succeeds in generating plenty of excitement for the big moment, but he isn't afraid to slow the pace to focus on Eddie's relationships with his widowed mother; with his best friend, Annie, an African American girl who lives in his trailer park; and with Annie's dad, who blew his chance to make it to the NBA and is determined to see Eddie succeed. Younger readers will enjoy trying to figure out who is behind a series of mysterious pranks designed to unnerve Eddie, but the mystery is too obvious to challenge older kids. Overall, this is a solidly written story that will appeal to a larger audience than most sports novels do. --Lauren Peterson