________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 35. . . .May 9, 2014


Pick and Roll. (Sports Stories).

Kelsey Blair.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2014.
134 pp., pbk., hc. & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $7.95 (epub).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0601-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0602-5 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0603-2 (epub).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4



Jazz shakes her head and closes her eyes. She imagines the feeling of grabbing a rebound. She imagines the feeling of jumping, her legs propelling her into the air. She imagines her eyes seeing nothing but the orange basketball. Finally, she imagines reaching out with both hands and pulling the ball toward her body as she lands. Jazz feels a rush of accomplishment.

When Jazz opens her eyes, Mr. Maxwell is collecting the quizzes. The only thing written on Jazz’s paper is her name.


Jazz is the star basketball player on her grade 9 basketball team, the Pipers. Her best friend, Cindy, is controlling, but Jazz overlooks it because she has known Cindy since they started kindergarten together. Jazz struggles in math, but Cindy helps her out. However, the help includes copying Cindy’s homework which doesn’t improve Jazz’s math competence particularly on the exams.

     In the last game of the regular series against their cross-town rivals, the Hornets, Jazz implements a play called the “Pick and Roll” where she stands to block the opposing player. They have executed the play successfully many times before, but this time, Catharine, from the Hornets, misses the cue from her teammate and runs into Jazz. Catharine falls, hits her head and is out for the rest of the season. Jazz feels terrible and starts to doubt whether it was a good play. She is suspended until the Commission can set a meeting to see if she will be suspended or cleared.

     Jazz’s love of basketball is suffering with her self-doubt. She finds out who her true friends are as she begins to see Cindy in a new way when Cindy thinks that she could now be the star player. Instead of defending Jazz, Cindy spreads untrue rumors about what she saw. Jazz finds support from Ella, another girl from the team, who has been lacking self-confidence and Ella’s friend, Adam, who is a chess player and geek often picked on by the other students, including Cindy. Jazz comes to understand that she must be herself and always play her own game.

      The author has extensive experience with the sport of basketball, and this comes through very well in the novel. The details about the game are extensive and easy to follow. Basketball enthusiasts and others will enjoy the story. Besides the sport focus, there is a strong theme of friendship and how that looks in a grade 9 world. When faced with adversity, Jazz understands what is important and how she needs to be true to herself. Cindy is shown to be selfish and self-centered, something which Jazz has not seen before. Ella comes through with support when Jazz needs it most, with both basketball and math. There is a small mystery when Adam’s watch is stolen and Ella is sure that it was Cindy who took it, but she needs Jazz’s information. At first, Jazz sees it as turning on Cindy, but then she realizes that Cindy has never been a true friend.

      The vocabulary is very suitable for the intended audience. Dialogue is extensive and realistic. The fast-paced plot adds to the enjoyment of the story. There are 13 chapters of 8-10 pages each. Chapters end at a high point which would make this an excellent read-aloud choice. The reading level of 3.0 also makes the novel an appropriate choice for reluctant readers. Pick and Roll would appeal to students who like basketball, team sports and realistic fiction, and the novel would be an excellent addition to any collection.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, with experience as a high school English teacher and teacher-librarian. Presently she is involved with post-secondary education as a faculty trainer and program development consultant at Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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