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When he meets George Baruth, Sylvester goes from being a terrible hitter to the boy who hit only homers! But how will he Nothin' but Net. When thirteen-year-old Tim Daniels gets a chance to go to basketball camp, he is faced When thirteen-year-old Tim Daniels gets a chance to go to basketball camp, he is faced with trying to be accepted by the popular players and remaining true to his friend who has become the butt of practical jokes. On the Course with Tiger Woods. Even before Tiger Woods stunned the world with his amazing victory at Augusta, he was Even before Tiger Woods stunned the world with his amazing victory at Augusta, he was impressing the golfing community with his perfect swing and pleasing crowds with his mile-wide smile and enthusiasm for the game.

In this book, readers learn On the Ice with Mario Lemieux. Hockey has been a part of Mario Lemieux's life since his childhood.

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At the age At the age of six he was holding his own against boys four years older; by the time he was sixteen, he had captured the attention of the Out at Second. Should Manny keep his promise-even if it puts his friend in danger? When the Grizzlies' Unfortunately, after several subsequent recurrences of the tumor, Christopher died on September 20, , in Charlotte, North Carolina. Despite his death, his literary legacy continued with a series of previously completed manuscripts that were published posthumously.

Today, Little, Brown and Co. Primarily focused on presenting moral values and entertainment to children within the confines of short chapter books, Christopher's canon is considered a strong resource for reluctant and struggling readers. Using sports and related subjects to appeal to young male readers, Christopher's large body of work has been welcomed by frustrated librarians, teachers, and parents who acknowledge a lack of comparable materials. While his stories do not vary dramatically from title to title, the similarity between his books is often seen as a refreshing comfort to beginning readers who recognize what a Matt Christopher story will contain in terms of plot structure and characterization.

Further, Christopher specialized in offering concise play-by-play action dictated with exacting precision and faithfulness to his formula. While the majority of his texts focus on baseball, Christopher authored a wide array of books set against the backdrop of almost every popular sport, with each demonstrating Christopher's keen dedication to accuracy. Though Christopher's narratives are generally driven by the details and structures of sporting events, his short novels also inserted gentle ethics lessons, focusing on civic instruction both on and off the field.

Mike Nahrstedt, a noted sportswriter, has asserted that Christopher's books "helped fuel my love of sports. But the diamonds and gridirons also provided a setting for moral lessons that were relevant to me as an 8-year-old. Like dealing with prejudice. Being a good friend.

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Coping with fear. Overcoming handicaps. And, in the sense of Basketball Sparkplug , handling taunts for singing in the church choir. If I didn't identify personally with one of his subjects, I knew someone who did. Whereas many of his rivals presented didactic lessons of simple encouragement in their chapter books, Christopher's narratives typically provided a real-world context that his primarily male readership could both sympathize with and apply to their own lives.

More often than not, such instructions were buried within the minor crises of his protagonists, and as such, were indirectly presented to his unsuspecting but appreciative readers. His recurring thematic motifs have included the need for honesty in Undercover Tailback and the value of cultivating friendship both on and off the playing field in Pressure Play While his readership did not overtly disregard girls—indeed, females were often equal members on the various featured teams throughout his books—Christopher made few direct overtures to this segment of his potential audience.

Aware of this hole in his canon, he once apologetically responded to a female reader, saying "I haven't written more because my publisher says my girls' books do not sell as well as my boys' books do. Christopher's large body of work has remained popular with his young fan base even after his death, as evidenced by the strong sales of his backlist titles and the series of ghost-written books penned in Christopher's trademark style. Among critics, his books have been commonly well-received, though most have qualified their praise by acknowledging that, because Christopher's chapter books are specifically written for developing readers, it is difficult to fault his texts for being repetitive or familiar.

To that end, Todd Morning's review of Baseball Turnaround is typical in its appreciation of Christopher's methodology and larger role within the children's literature genre: "Despite the obvious message of being honest , this novel is not so heavy-handed that it gets in the way of the story. The action moves along at a good clip with plenty of stuff about baseball to balance out the accounts of the hero's inner turmoil. The writing is always clear and the descriptions are accurate.

This is a good, serviceable story for kids who enjoy sports fiction. For example, Mike Nahrstedt has asserted that Christopher's stories "were children's classics. They were sports stories first, with vivid descriptions of games and all the drama that is inherent in athletic competition. In his review of Undercover Tailback , Tom S.

Hurlburt has stated that the author's "foreshadowing and development of the far-fetched plot take away from any semblance of characterization beyond the protagonist's and the limit the amount of game action. About 30 years ago, I was rummaging through the sports shelves of my grade-school library when I came across Basketball Sparkplug , a novel by Matt Christopher.

A couple days later I was back looking for another Matt Christopher book, then another and another. I don't know if I read every sports novel he had written, but I read every one the library had. Most of them twice. Last week, I finished reading Basketball Sparkplug with my 8-year-old son, Matt. I read them myself when I was his age, and Matt could do the same, but I won't let him. I enjoyed them too much to miss this opportunity to cherish them again.

And so it was with great sadness that I learned, just after reading the last chapter of Basketball Sparkplug , that Christopher died September 20 at the age of 80 in Charlotte, N. He died of complications following his third operation for a brain tumor in eight years. Matt Christopher books were children's classics. They helped fuel my love of sports. And, in the case of Basketball Sparkplug , handling taunts for singing in the church choir.

Christopher wrote more than sports books for children, selling more than six million copies. Baseball was his first love—he played minor league ball briefly in —but he wrote about all sports, starting with The Lucky Baseball Bat in As late as this spring, he still was sending manuscripts to his longtime publisher, Little, Brown and Co. Several will be published posthumously. The books I read were from the '50s and early '60s, but they have aged nicely. Though kids today face more problems than I ever did, the principles of right and wrong that should guide them in their decision-making haven't changed.

The themes of his books are as compelling today as 30 years ago. Maybe more so. You probably noticed my son's name. My wife and I had many reasons to select that name. At this point it might seem trite to suggest that one of the reasons was because Matt was the name of my first favorite author. Matt Christopher, a prolific author of middle-grade sports fiction, died September 20 due to complications following surgery for a brain tumor.

He was 80 years old. The oldest of nine children, born in Bath, Pa. Christopher was also heavily involved in sports, primarily baseball, and hoped to win an athletic scholarship to Cornell University but lacked the grades. Christopher said in an interview once that since times were tough in those Depression years, his parents felt that "college was for rich kids, not for a poor one like me.

Nevertheless, Christopher played minor league baseball with Smith Falls, Ontario, and other teams until an injury caused him to retire. He went on to write over books for children, all published by Little, Brown, which spanned a wide variety of sports.

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Over the years, he added more contemporary issues, such as divorce and adoption, and more introspective approaches to what was always his main subject—underdogs and average people demonstrating courage and tenacity. The author's other writings include screenplays, a comic strip that ran for six years in Treasure Chest magazine, a one-act play and a series of sports biographies. This fall, Little, Brown is publishing four new Christopher titles; in spring , there will be five new titles: two biographies, two Matt Christopher Classics and one Peach Street Mudders title. School Library Journal 46, no.

The characters seem like real people with flaws and problems. Hat Trick focuses on Stookie Norris, who desperately tries to score three goals in every game after his older brother is featured in the local paper for doing just that—scoring a hat trick.

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Only his shots matter to him because the more he takes, the more likely he is to achieve his goal. It takes a wise coach and a good friend to make Stookie into a team player. In Secret Weapon , Lisa is self-conscious because she is short, which makes it difficult for her to make a throw-in.

When her coach discovers that she has gymnastic ability, he encourages her to work on a secret-weapon flip throw that helps her team gain points. One black-and-white ink illustration appears in each chapter. Facial expressions convey the characters' emotions and pictures of the field action capture the excitement of the games. For parents and teachers trying to coax reluctant boy readers to pick up a book, the sports stories of Matt Christopher have been a godsend for half a century.

Matt Christopher

Short on character development, long on action, mind-numbingly accurate in play-by-play descriptions of "the big game," Christopher's novels have provided an important bridge from early readers to middle-grade novels for many a struggling reader. It's hard to believe that his first book, The Lucky Baseball Bat , was published in , but Little, Brown has just issued a fiftieth anniversary edition to replace the revised and reillustrated edition we've been dealing with for the past decade. This commemorative edition contains the original art and text, placing it squarely in the world of the s, where boys say "For Petey sakes," the television is a new and exciting development owned by only a few lucky families, and little sisters can be pressed into service to throw a few practice pitches after they finish helping Mother with the dishes.

It's great fun to read the book as it was originally written; the attempt in recent years to "modernize" the text effectively sucked the life out of it. I can only hope that we'll see more of Christopher's early books return in their original format. New York, N.

Reviews: Red-Hot Hightops (Matt Christopher Sports Classics)- Children's Books On

Bowker Company, Larry Shope is unhappy because his lawyer father takes so little interest in his football games [in Football Fugitive ]. The boy has written several letters to Yancey Foote, a professional football player whom he idolizes. The last two communications have been returned with the words: "Moved—Left No Forwarding Address" stamped on them. Larry, worried about what may have happened to his hero, buys a sports magazine, which reports that the athlete was involved in a brawl with a much smaller man and may be in serious trouble.

Larry's best friend and teammate, Greg, has a severe hearing loss, which interferes only mildly with his playing. The other boys occasionally assist him, and Larry repeats or interprets when he thinks his buddy may have missed something. After a typical locker room session, Larry asks Greg: "Did you get all that? I'm not sure. Most of the time the coach doesn't open his mouth very much when he speaks, except when he sees me frowning at him. Every time I frown he knows that I'm not reading his lips very well, so he starts talking a little louder and forms the words with his lips.

Greg responds: "I can tell.


And, remember, I'm not totally deaf either. The boys notice a stranger watching them from the sidelines. Larry tracks him down, goes to his apartment, and learns he is the missing Yancey Foote. The Green Bay Packer tells Larry he wants his father to represent him in court and will call for an appointment. In the meantime, he sends his young fan back to the coach with a couple of hot shot professional maneuvers. These plays turn the team around, and after a winning game the professional football player escorts Larry home and meets the boy's father, who agrees to defend him.

The day of the trial is also the day of another big game. Thanks again to Yancey's long-distance coaching, the boys win. After the game is over, Larry is startled to see both his hero and his father, who joyfully inform him that they have won the case. In the future, Mr. Shope promises to take an interest in his son's pursuits: "From now on I'm going to see to it that the word lawyers is interchangeable with fathers.

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  • Analysis : There is plenty of play-by-play action in this highly improbable story of a neglected youngster, a misunderstood gridiron hero, and an inattentive father who mends his ways. The best aspect of this work is the totally natural, almost casual treatment of the youth with a hearing loss. Some accommodations must be made for his disability, but these are done without fuss or drama.

    Although only a secondary component of the story, it is handled with commendable sensitivity. Most of the black-and-white illustrations show football action and complement the straightforward presentation of the plot. Reluctantly, Bernie announces his intention to quit baseball, a decision that puzzles and disappoints his younger brother, Frankie [in The Submarine Pitch ]. Dave, Bernie's best pal, stops by to discuss an underhand pitch called the Submarine, which he is confident his disheartened friend can master.

    The former pitcher's two main supporters persuade Bernie to practice, and soon, to his surprise, the youth improves his technique to such a degree that he agrees to come out of "retirement. As each game is played, the hurler's control and reputation increase. During one of the contests, Bernie becomes distracted when he cannot spot Dave in the stands.

    He vaguely recalls that his friend has been having difficulty breathing lately, lacks energy, and tires excessively after only slight exertion. Dave shows up late but, soon after, misses a game completely.

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    Now very worried, Bernie insists his mother call the hospital and learns his unspoken fears have been realized: Dave is in intensive care. The patient's father informs the hero that his son is desperately ill with a liver disease: "He never told anybody. He's been fighting a battle with it for the last two years. I hope he's going to get well, but Bernie, it doesn't look too good. Analysis : Despite extensive clues that Dave is seriously ill, there is no literary justification for the sudden announcement that his disorder is fatal.

    The use of this dramatic ploy is a transparent attempt to beef up a work whose exclusive purpose is to provide detailed descriptions of baseball action. Reading Teacher 48, no. His efforts only get him in trouble, especially when he hits a ball through a neighbor's car window.

    All children will be pleased—especially baseball fans. School Library Journal 38, no. In a boy-who-cries-wolf scenario, his teammates and coach refuse to believe his truthful account of how he witnessed someone photograph their playbook. The boy proves his story by exposing the spy, and learns a lesson about honesty along the way.

    This is one of Christopher's weaker efforts, delivering more of a second-rate mystery than his typical, fast-paced sports story. The foreshadowing and development of the far-fetched plot take away from any semblance of characterization beyond the protagonist's and limit the amount of game description. Further, few year-olds would think of offering money to an opposing player, much less provide him with a miniature camera for photographing a playbook.

    A little syrup is added when the perpetrator says he took and sold the pictures because his father was recently laid off. While the legions of Christopher's fans will undoubtedly read this one, they will also hope his next book offers more. School Library Journal 39, no. As he did in The Dog That Pitched a No-Hitter Little, , the boy counts on his pet's encouragement whenever he plays, but now—on the day before the big game—Harry is grounded for nip-9 ping another dog.

    By the bottom of the last inning the score is tied, and Mike is sorely in need of Harry's advice, when Mom relents and arrives at the field with the Airedale. Predictably, Mike scores the winning run. The story is somewhat contrived, but it will serve as an additional beginning chapter book for young baseball fans. Vasconcellos's humorous black-and-white line drawings add some appeal. Purchase where the previous book is a big hit. His on-field focus is further diluted by his concerns about a homemade-video contest he is preparing to enter and anonymous phone calls he's receiving.

    These calls are telling him to get his act together on the ball diamond, or else!