What You Need to Know:|
• Love of the Game is a great selection for middle grade boys, perfectly combing sports and a thoughtful storyline.
• The main character's parents are divorced, and although it does make life more complicated for him, he is not
derailed by the situation.
• One character’s father is in Afghanistan, but the story does not dwell on that subject.
• The kids in the story face bullying that includes shoving and threatening language.
• Be careful not to get this book confused with the Kevin Costner movie, For Love of the Game!
Readers may be drawn to Love of the Game because of the football theme, but John Coy delivers much more than a play-by-play. Yes, sports are definitely an important part of the story here, but they don’t dominate or overshadow the characters and their experiences. Readers get to know 6th grader, Jackson Kennedy. They learn how he feels about things like school, reading, bullies, random nicknames, his mom’s boyfriend, and most importantly, his favorite activity, football.
We meet Jackson on the first day of middle school, and from his experience on the bus, it looks like he’s in for a rough year. There’s nowhere to sit, spitballs are flying and 8th grade bullies snag his lunch. Things go from bad to worse when his locker sticks, none of his elementary school friends are in his classes and his mom tells him that they’re moving in with her boyfriend. He only spends half the week there, the other half is with his dad, but it’s just another change in his life. The only thing that offers him any comfort is joining the football team, and even that is stressful because he has to choose whether or not he’ll play offense or defense. Jackson learns to cope with these very typical middle school pressures and slowly adjusts to his new situation. He finds interesting teachers, stands up for himself and even begins a nice friendship with a new girl.
Jackson’s experiences, thoughts and conversations feel very realistic. He shows just the right amount of bravado and vulnerability. His friends are a diverse group: one speaks Spanish, one is more of a “brain” and one has a dad in the military. Their bond is football. There’s enough detail and description to allow readers to make a connection to the story, but not enough to be overwhelming. The chapters are short, the dialogue is engaging and there’s action on the football field. Don’t “pass” this one by!
2011, 192 pages
Books for Boys, Bullying, Divorce, Friendship, Family Life, Good Book Club Selection, School, Sports
• How does Jackson's experience in middle school compare to what life is like in your middle school?
• Why would you or wouldn’t you, want to be friends with Jackson?
• Should you join a team or play a position just because your friends want you to?
• Should girls get to play on boys’ sports teams? How does it impact the team dynamics?
• What’s your favorite sport? Why?
• What are some situations in which Jackson is being bullied?
• How does Jackson handle the bullying? What could he have done differently?
• What do you think happens to Jackson after the book ends?
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