From School Library Journal
Grade 2–4—Five kids with distinct personalities—Henry, Goose, Rocky, Rita, and Jazz—are the stars of this new series. Basketball Bats
focuses on Henry, who rounds up his friends to play basketball against some bullies. Unfortunately, he becomes a ball hog, but he can count on his friends to remind him that they need to work together. The lesson, of course, is that there is no "I" in "team." In Goof-Off Goalie
, Goose must focus so that he can convince the soccer coach that he's the best choice for goalie. His friends help him train for the big game, and he learns that, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. It's no surprise that both Henry and Goose win their respective games in the end. McCauley's illustrations have a childlike quality, giving the impression that the characters themselves doodled in their school notebooks. These titles are ideal for easy chapter-book readers who aren't quite ready for Matt Christopher or Mike Lupica. The series will likely develop a following among sports lovers. However, the question remains: Will any of the characters in the sequels actually lose a game?—Laura Lutz, Queens Borough Public Library, NY
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When Tough Guy saunters into the neighborhood and challenges Henry and his friends to a game of basketball against his team, the Tigers, they accept and win. In a rematch, the Tigers beat them while bringing out the worst side of Henry’s nature: the ball-hog side. Though he has always wanted a nickname, Henry’s put out when his resentful teammates start calling him “Hot Dog.” A third game gives them a chance to beat the Tigers, while Henry tries to earn his friends’ respect. In this promising start for the Gym Shorts series, Hicks finds just the right balance between story line, play-by-play action, and wry humor. Even better, her solidly drawn descriptions of Henry’s hopes and fears give readers a reason to care about the story’s outcome. Nearly every double-page spread includes a droll illustration by McCauley, the illustrator of Scieszka’s Time Warp Trio series. A winner for young sports fans. Grades 2-4. --Carolyn Phelan