It’s 1970 in Wilkins, Indiana, and Judi Wilson longs to play basketball instead of cheering from the bleachers. Five years later, she’s a cheerleading senior in high school when she hears an announcement that Wilkins Regional High School is going to have a girls’ basketball team! With only eight girls going out for the team, everyone makes the cut. However, the girls don’t have real uniforms, buses to away games, meal money, or equal access to the high school gym. Judi and her teammates present their demands to the Athletic Director, but they face an uphill battle. With some grassroots publicity and the dedicated support of Coach Montez (plus electrical tape for putting numbers on their t-shirts), the “Lady Bears” make it all the way to Indiana’s first-ever girls’ basketball state championship! Do they have what it takes to bring home the trophy? Hoops was inspired by the true story of the 1976 Warsaw High School girls’ basketball team (read the Author’s Note for more details). Matt Tavares’ gentle, retro color palette of brick red, olive green, and turquoise (and orange basketballs, of course!) perfectly situates this story in a particular time and place: Indiana in 1976. It’s full-to-bursting with heart and exciting moments on the court.
THOUGHTS:Hoops is a stand-out all-ages read with connections to Women’s History Month, March Madness, Title IX, and more!
Alegre, Reina Luz. The Dream Weaver. Simon & Schuster Publishers, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-534-46231-1. Grades 5-8.
After drifting around the country following her father’s next big idea her whole life, twelve-year-old Zoey Finolio and her college-bound brother, Jose, land at the Jersey shore living with their maternal Cuban grandfather—one of the most stable homes since their mother’s death. Though Zoey loves her father, she revels in a summer at the beach, doing things most kids her age do and embraces the dream of saving Gonzo’s, her grandfather’s rundown bowling alley, from a developer. When she gets a chance to fill in as a bowler on a local team headed for a championship, Zoey sees it as an opportunity to not only savor friendship but also rejuvenate the boardwalk business. The familial relationships and friendships are nurturing and supportive throughout the book, but this book doesn’t resort to past solutions. Even after the valiant efforts of Zoey and her new friends, Pappy decides to unload the bowling alley and just manage it; Jose still wants to pursue his dream of being an engineer at college; and Zoey’s father continues to try his luck at a different job despite sacrificing his children’s stability. Zoey shows strength of character in expressing her feelings to her father and finds solace in her supportive brother, her new friends, and her new home with her beloved Pappy.
THOUGHTS: The close familial relationships and kind friend relationships are a delight to read. Zoey’s father’s behavior is abysmal and may be a form of bibliotherapy for some readers. In Chapter One, Zoey gets her period for the first time and the narrative explains her distress and how she deals with it, so using the book as a read aloud—at least the first chapter—may be uncomfortable.
Realistic Fiction Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia