CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 16. . . .December 18, 2015
Ugly Kicks. (Sports Stories).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2015.
133 pp., pbk. & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0972-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0974-3 (epub).
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
As Ashley turns to jog to the Vancouver bench, Jane confronts her. “Come on, Sneakers. If you can’t stop her, take your ugly kicks and get out of the game.”
Ashley opens her mouth to yell at Jane. In the corner of her eye, she sees Scotty jogging toward them. She remembers what Tamara and Tanya said. Jane’s just mad because she doesn’t want Kelly to be better than her and she’s taking it out on Ashley. Ashley looks Jane square in the eyes.
She takes a breath. “I don’t like being called Sneakers, and I’m doing my best. Just like you.”
Ashley loves to play basketball. A good friend of her brother, Stephanie, was Ashley’s coach in Grade 8 and is now her assistant coach in Grade 9. Ashley’s brother has had an injury to his knee and no longer can play soccer. He was hoping to have a scholarship at university based on his soccer career, but that is on hold. It changes how Matt feels about life. He has given up and stays home all day, doing nothing.
Ashley’s mom works hard to support her two children, but there is very little extra money. Stephanie babysits, but she doesn’t think she can raise the $200 for the fee to play on the provincial basketball team. Ashley decides to try to raise the money by taking on extra babysitting and a paper route. She is so tired that her friends, Tanya and Tamara, twins in her grade, tell her she is grouchy, but they miss spending time with her. Stephanie’s grades are suffering with all of her efforts to raise money.
When the team makes tier 1, a trip to Victoria is the result, Ashley needs to raise another $300. She is so tired that she doesn’t think she can do more. When she injuries her ankle, Stephanie convinces Matt to help Ashley and change his attitude. Matt steps up and helps out. He realizes that an injury can make the person stronger rather than wanting to give up.
Ashley finds that, with her injury, she really does want to play on the team even though Jane, one of the popular girls, gives her a rough time about her old sneakers. Jane calls them “ugly kicks”. Ashley realizes that she needs to take a breath and keep calm on the team. Scotty, a unique team member, helps her to understand Jane’s motivation and what is truly important.
The author has extensive experience with the sport of basketball, and this knowledge comes through in the novel. Basketball enthusiasts and others will enjoy the story. Besides the sport focus, there is a strong theme of friendship and how one girl learns to get along with others and achieve her goals. The vocabulary is very suitable for the intended audience, and the dialogue is realistic. The fast-paced plot adds to the enjoyment of the story. There are 18 chapters. That the chapters each end at a high point would make this an excellent read-aloud choice. The reading level of 3.0 would make this an excellent choice for reluctant readers. The novel would appeal to students who like basketball, team sports and realistic fiction, and Ugly Kicks would be an excellent addition to any collection.
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 Polytechnic.
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