Summer Ball, by Mike Lupica; Philomel
Books: New York, 2007; $17.99
Have you ever read the sequel to a book that you loved and felt utterly disappointed or, even worse, robbed? If you read Travel Team, by Mike Lupica, which was reviewed by Zach Hoffman in the May/June 2007 edition of Stone Soup, and decide to read Summer Ball, you will feel anything but robbed. Summer Ball is an amazing book written by the best sportswriter in the business.
In the book, Danny Walker is coming off leading his team, the Middletown Warriors, to a travel team championship. His dad, a former NBA player, Richie Walker, decides that Danny will go to a famous basketball camp in Maine, the Right Way Basketball Camp. Even though Danny’s two best friends, Ty Ross and Will Stoddard, are going, Danny is worried about attending camp because he fears not being good enough or tall enough to compete well against some of the other campers, the best players his age in the country. When he arrives, his fears are realized. A player that played against Danny in the travel team championship game, Rasheed Hill, hates him and is attending camp. He is put on the same team as Danny, and their coach wants Rasheed to be the star of the team. When Danny visits the coach, the coach suggests that Danny try soccer. Danny is able to fight through all of these hardships and make it to the championship game, while standing up for his new friend, Zach Fox, in a fight with one of the best players in camp, Lamar Parrish.
When Danny first arrives at camp, he realizes that he isn’t one of the best players there. One time, when I was eight, I went to a basketball camp. The camp was divided into two divisions. According to my age, I belonged in the top division. But after a few minutes of practice, I was demoted to the lower division, even though I felt like I was doing fine. But, just like Danny, I continued trying and I was promoted.
My favorite part of the book is when Rasheed stood up for Danny during the championship game. Throughout the book, Rasheed and Danny slowly gain respect for each other and become friends. Because Coach Powers wouldn’t play Danny, Rasheed told Coach Powers that if Danny didn’t play, he wouldn’t play. When Coach put Danny back in, he led a huge comeback. Another one of my favorite parts was when the ref called a technical foul on Lamar. In my basketball league, there was one team that was very dirty. They were never called for a technical foul.
In the book, the campers could cheer for whatever team they wanted. We got revenge on the dirty team by attending the league play-off game they were in and cheering loudly for the other team.
One thing the author does extremely well is dialogue. Even though the camp is in Maine, it attracts players from all over the country. One of the friends Danny meets, Tarik, is from New York City, so he has a different vocabulary than the kids from Long Island. This is kind of funny because he uses terms that Danny (and I) don’t know.
I definitely recommend this book about basketball, friendship, and teamwork. Once you pick it up, it is hard to put down.