From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–Phillip Stanislaw, black sheep of his circus family, convinces his parents to let him stay with his Aunt Veola and Uncle Felix in Hardingtown, the unofficial Dodgeball Capital of the World. The 11-year-old soon discovers that a "normal life" isn't necessarily problem-free. Gym class at Hardingtown Middle School is a never-ending monotony of the town's favorite sport, made worse by both the merciless coach and the school bully/dodgeball champ. Phillip wants to protest the violent sport and decides the best way to do so is in court. With the help of a blind lawyer, he takes on the town's beloved pastime, in the process learning to appreciate his background. While the book is not entirely believable (dodgeballs fall from the sky and hit the judge on the head at a crucial moment), its subject matter (sports, bullies, and circuses) couldn't be more appealing to kids, and the humorous situations will keep the pages turning. Most of the characters achieve respectable depth, and readers will cheer Phillip's desire to stand up for others and improve his school's morale. Pair this with Carol Gorman's Dork on the Run (HarperCollins, 2002) or Doug Wilhelm's The Revealers (Farrar, 2003) for a bullying bibliography that kids will gladly read. Or, try giving it to fans of Kate Klise's Trial by Journal (HarperCollins, 2001) for another dose of kids in courtroom drama.–Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT
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Gr. 5-7. Phillip Stanislaw wants to escape the circus where his parents are performers. His aunt and uncle agree to take him in, and Phillip is enrolled as a sixth-grader at Hardingtown Middle School. Hardingtown bills itself as the Unofficial Dodgeball Capital of the World (thanks to the dodgeball factory that is located in the town). Much to his displeasure, Phillip learns that every gym class features a sadistic form of the game. After his glasses are broken from a ball thrown by the mean-spirited coach's daughter, Phillip decides to sue for damages and ends up serving as his own lawyer. The plot of this first novel walks a tightrope between wackiness and earnestness, and when some implausible twists are added at the end, the plot threatens to topple over. Yet many young readers will enjoy the funny lines and situations and will come away admiring the spunky central character. Todd Morning
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