Mike Lupica’s Newest Novel Goes The Extra Yard

The second book in Mike Lupica’s Home Town Series, The Extra Yard, is a fantastic follow up to The Only Game. The first book follows Jack Callahan as he overcomes a family tragedy and leads his Little League team to the World Series. This new book focuses on Teddy Madden, the team’s catcher from the first book, while he tries to make his dream team — the local competitive football squad!

For the first time in his life Teddy is super physically fit, has a great crew of friends, and he is excited to be starting junior high. He has gone from the kid who was constantly picked on at lunch, to the one who stands to be the first player picked for the team. The only hang up to what could be a banner year in Teddy’s life is the return of his dad, who moved away eight years ago. With the help of his friends, Teddy tries to make his football dreams come true and build a relationship with the dad he has never really known. It will be a year fraught with drama, on and off the field.

What makes the Home Team series, especially The Extra Yard, stand out from other sports middle grade novels is the rich, interesting characters and the meaningful family relationships. Not only do you get tons of football facts, games, and play calls, you also get to spend time with characters that you care about. Beyond the main characters Teddy, Jack, and Teddy’s family, you will also find yourself loving Cassie, the softball star who knows more about sports than nearly anyone (and who can probably play them better too), kind-hearted Gus, and Gregg, the owner of a surprising talent. Middle grade readers will surely see themselves in these characters, or at the very least they will find someone they want to be friends with.

For the football fanatic, Lupica does include loads of references to famous games, impossible to forget throws, and modern controversies (Deflatgate, anyone?). Though I’m a football novice, I found myself excited to learn about the art of the slant, the importance of knowing when to hold the ball and when to take a chance, and the family atmosphere that is built within a team. Given Lupica’s career at ESPN, and his many books for readers of all ages, it isn’t surprising that he knows how to craft a detailed sports novel that is also tons of fun to read. You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to love this one.

Readers can come up to the line of scrimmage expecting just a football novel, but Lupica has thrown a welcome audible and presented a fast, fun, meaningful read that everyone can enjoy. Tackle the first two books in this series, and hang on for a long run, since I am sure we will be hearing plenty more from The Home Team.

What sports novels do your middle grade readers sprint through?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on January 19, 2016.

Seven Superstar Sports Chapter Books Fit For Every Reader

Fall is the perfect time for sports, hands down. With baseball playoffs, Monday Night Football, and hockey in full swing, it is a veritable feast of athletic endeavors. Going for a jog in the changing leaves and cheering from the soccer sidelines might fill your weekends, but these series with sports superstars will occupy your young readers’ evenings.

Nancy Clancy, Soccer Mania (Fancy Nancy Series: Nancy Clancy #6)by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser In the popular Fancy Nancy Series, Nancy typically doesn’t like to follow the crowd, but a team effort can turn anyone into fan of groups. Nancy is a pro at painting her nails, cheering, and wanting to be good at soccer, but she is not quite there yet. This book is really great for that young soccer player who loves the sport but just isn’t ready for the all-star team.

Kickoff!by Tiki Barber and Ronde Barber Ok, this is super cool — a football chapter book series, written by football superstars. Based on the real life stories of its authors, the book features two boys, Tiki and Ronde, who are getting ready to start junior high with a new team, new rules, and new challenges. Hard work and perseverance will become their best friends as they navigate this unknown world on their paths to NFL glory. Your gridiron fanatic will want this book with them on the sidelines.

Diary of a Basketball Hero by Shamini Flint and Sally Heinrich Fans of basketball and the Wimpy Kid series will find their new hero in Marcus, a math whiz with zero sports prowess. At his dad’s encouragement, Marcus is thrust on the path of basketball superstardom, or at least on his way to dribbling without falling. Kids who are torn between the court and the bookshelf might be swayed to sit down for just a bit longer with this witty story, which is filled with engaging art.

Alice the Tennis Fairy (Rainbow Magic: Sports Fairies Series #6) by Daisy Meadows Even Fairies can get downright competitive, especially when it comes to the Fairy Olympics. In a series of seven books, fairies Rachel and Kirsty have to help each athlete get their equipment back from the evil Jack Frost and his horde of goblins. This time around the girls have to help Alice reclaim her tennis gear before she is due on the court. Part sports chapter book, part mystery, all adventure, parents of fairy loving readers and athletes will really hit a magical home run with this series.

Willie & Me by Dan Gutman One of many in the Baseball Card Adventure Series, main character Joe Stoshack travels back in time to investigate the “Shot Heard Around the World.” Will he accidentally mess up the career of Willie Mays in the process? Can the other players he has met in his travels help him avoid disaster? Time traveling with baseball cards and famous players has never been so much fun. Superfans will especially love the black and white photos and the player stats that are included in each book.

Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills and Rob Shepperson Each student of the Franklin School Friends series is a stand out at something, and Izzy Barr is the best runner around. Unfortunately for her, her brother is also a great athlete and possibly the apple of their father’s eye. Will things turn around for Izzy when the big 10k comes to town? For the budding track athlete or distance runner in the family — or for the kid who wants a fun way to pass the time while mom and dad run, pick up Izzy Barr!

Face-Off by Jake Maddox and Sean Tiffany With jealous teammates, including his own brother, Kyle Parker has to balance becoming a hockeypowerhouse while keeping his family — and teammates — on his side. This book is a great choice for anyone who is hesitant to read, loves hockey, or needs a slim fun book to pop into their stick bag. If you are new to hockey there is also a glossary of terms in the back to get the whole family up to speed.

What do your young athletes like to read when they aren’t at practice?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on November 30, 2015.