Author: Mike Lupica
Publication: Scholastic Press (May 8, 2012)
Description: New York Times bestselling author Mike Lupica scores a touchdown with his new middle-grade sports series!
Ben McBain is every football team's dream player. He's a jack-of-all-trades guy that can handle almost any position. When the game is on the line, Ben's number is the one being called for the final play. But Ben wants to be the starting quarterback and the one thing standing in his way is the coach's son.
Shawn O'Brien looks the part. He has been groomed by his father, a former professional quarterback. But despite his size and arm strength, Shawn is struggling.
Ben is torn between being a good teammate and going after his own dream. As Ben finds out, Shawn isn't the easiest person to help. And when Ben gets an unexpected opportunity, the entire game will change for the both of them.
Best-selling author Mike Lupica kicks off a winning new series about sports and friendship that will captivate readers.
My Thoughts: This middle grade novel had great football action. Football fans will be playing right along with Ben McBain and the rest of the Rams. Ben is the one telling this story. He is crazy for sports and good at them as long as it is speed and savvy that is needed. But Ben has a problem; he is small. He barely makes the 100 pound limit for his level of Pop Warner football. He has everything he needs to be the quarterback except size. Unfortunately, size counts in the quarterback position and the Shawn O'Brien, the son of the team's coach, gets the job.
Ben is a team player though and is determined to help Shawn be the best quarterback he can be. Only Shawn doesn't want to be quarterback, doesn't have fun playing football, and is only playing because he doesn't want to disappoint his dad who was a former pro quarterback. It is really hard for Ben to help someone who has the job he wanted and who doesn't really want it at all. It also didn't help that his two best friends on the team weren't willing to help Shawn be better because they felt Shawn wasn't making any effort to be a good team player. Ben is torn between helping Shawn and pleasing his friends.
I liked the sports action. I liked Ben's emphasis on being a good teammate. I really liked that Ben was a reader as well as an athlete. I liked that one of his best friends was a girl and a smart one at that. I liked that two of his other best friends were as crazy about sports as he was and were also his teammates. And I liked that the parents in the story were all good people who were present for their kids. Although I did think that Shawn's dad was a little blind to what his son really wanted and was very busy trying to make Shawn into the player that he wished he had been.
What bothered me a little was that Ben sounded more like a philosophical 40-year-old than and 11-year-old. I think that he could have shown a little more disappointment for not making the team as a quarterback and a little more resentment that Shawn did.
Things get really tense between Shawn and Ben after Ben is put in at quarterback in the third game of the series and manages to engineer a big comeback win. It takes a while for things to work out including Shawn doing something really hard.
This was a nice story about nice kids that I look forward to sharing with my middle graders this fall.
"C'mon, you know you wanted to be QB from the first day."I got this book from the Amazon Vine program. You can buy your copy here.
"No, I didn't."
Ben stopped himself. Ben McBain the bad liar.
"No, that's not true," he said to Shawn. "I do love playing quarterback. And, yeah, I'd like to be the starting quarterback. But I like our team more. I want our team to do well. That's why I tried to help you. You know I tried to help you. You can't say I didn't."