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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rebound by Bob Krech

Swish! (Basketball talk for the ball is in.) So's the book. It's a winner.

Raymond Wisniewski loves basketball. He invests hours a day in playing and practicing, hoping to make the school team. This author does such a fine writing job, your heart sinks with Ray when he does not make the team two years running.

Senior year, a new coach debuts, and Ray makes the team. He and one other Polish boy are the only white players. The gist of the story is Ray’s experience of prejudice. He faces his own, the other players’, and certain adults’ as well. His first coach was prejudiced in favor of the black players, and his second, a black coach, was quite fair to all his players while also tough on them all. As this coach sees the racial tension come to a head, he warns them that they must each decide for themselves who and how they will be defined.

In the final climatic scene, Ray and his friends do exactly that. There are black and white punks, and black and whites who overcome their prejudice and respect themselves and others. Ray also learns that beautiful girls can be shallow, while plainer girls can have great depth. Basketball is the vehicle through which these relationships and lessons play out. It is superbly done.

While the book is mid-tween in readability, its content is more suitable to older tweens.

The language is not excessively bad; I cringe the most at the few casual uses of God’s name. 1 sh_t. There’s a bully taunt: “fairy boy,” and a reference to fat b_tts. The main character has clean language. He’s decent, likable, and a boy of character.

The areas I would recommend a parent’s input on, are the following: One character recommends dating a certain girl because “she gives.” (no, doesn’t say what). Ironically, while the boys come from a Polish community which gave us a Polish pope who taught Theology of the Body, we get a weak, anemic view on sex from the dad: he has a quick conversation with Ray in which he assumes the school gives him the sex talks and his input on sexual wisdom is, “use the Big Head, not the Little head.” A high-school character also tells Ray to use his Polish pickle or protection.

While the Catholic church is universal and has always taught that everyone is created in God’s image, racism is still a sin that many Catholics have succumbed to. This books handles this issue well and fairly though no genuine religious aspect comes through. A parent could add a lot of depth here. And a parent may want to consider the breadth of their tween’s knowledge. Do they know why the older Polish men in the neighborhood would be furious at the swastika sign on one Polish boy’s arm?

Ray also attends a party where there is drugs/alchohol. I was disappointed that his character said something about not caring if the other guys did the drugs. It was a bit counter-balanced by the excellent reaction of the coach and father who busted them just for being there (the near occasion of sin isn't mentioned but implied.) The main character never drank or smoked the pot. He was just weak about the other player who did partake. (No details given, and he left the party right away).

Safety Rating: 2 Vatican Flags; High Readability


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