Sunday, September 20, 2015

Body Check, by Matt Christopher

Brent Mullen is a future hockey star!  At twelve years old, he’s already mastered the basics of ice hockey and he’s looking forward to competing at higher levels.  All of his plans change in an instant, however, when his team gains a new player whose father serves as an assistant coach.  Unlike Coach Maxwell, who emphasized fair play and sportsmanship, Coach Seabrook is all about doing what it takes to win.  When he begins teaching the boys that cheating is okay as long as you don’t get caught, Brent seriously considers leaving the team.  Will Brent be able to express his concerns before the illegal moves get one of the players hurt?

This was a very cool book, and it was one of Mr. Christopher’s that I hadn’t read before.  In fact, I just went to my library and grabbed one of his books off the shelf at random.  Matt Christopher was a perennial favorite when I was growing up, and I’m confident that he’s probably the best sportswriter for children, hands down.  If you’ve got a favorite sport, I’ll bet money that Mr. Christopher has written an awesome book about it.  All of his stories feature a solid plot set into a background of authentic sports action, which really helps to keep his storylines flying along!

As much as I enjoyed reading “Body Check”, I’d say that any of Mr. Christopher’s books would be a good choice for a young man who’s more interested in playing sports than reading books.  But don’t take my word for it, go ahead and try this experiment for yourself!  Introduce one of these sports books to the young athlete in your life, and I guarantee you’ll create a ravenous reader.  In fact, the new Matt Christopher fan might be in danger of missing practice because he wants to read “just one more page”!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Last Mission, by Harry Mazer

At fifteen years old, Jack Raab is still too young to join the military.  As the Second World War is winding down in Europe, Jack fears that all of the fighting will be over before he gets his chance to see action.  After some consideration, he uses a fake ID card to lie about his age and enlist in the Army Air Corps.  Jack makes it through training and becomes a gunner on a B-17 “Flying Fortress”.  After twenty-four bombing missions and countless close calls, Jack’s luck finally runs out!  When his plane is shot down by the Germans, he escapes by parachute and comes down behind enemy lines… alone, and afraid.

One thing I absolutely love about this book is the realism.  Mr. Mazer served in the Army Air Corps himself, so it’s no wonder that he got all the details correct.  From all the descriptions of the bomber in flight, including the snap of freezing cold air temperatures and the smell of the exploding shrapnel, you’ll probably feel like you’re strapped in alongside young Jack.  Also, I really appreciated how honest the book was when it discussed Jack’s feelings.  During training he thought he was invincible, and that no harm could possibly ever come to him.  Eventually, after seeing some of his friends injured in battle, Jack’s demeanor became deadly serious.

Just like in real life, this story doesn’t end once Jack’s tour is over.  I really enjoyed following Jack’s return home, and I could identify with the difficulties that he faced when he tried to return to his old high school.  “The Last Mission” offers an outstanding view on what war really is, as opposed to what young men sometimes think it is.  Even though this book contains some depictions of violence and foul language, I would recommend it without reservation, particularly to young men who might be considering a career in the armed services.