Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Million Dollar Shot

The Million Dollar Shot
Dan Gutman
Hyperion, 1997 114 pgs
Grades 3-6
Million Dollar series #1

Eddie Ball loves basketball. He and his best friend Annie love to shoot baskets and play HORSE by the small court in their trailer park. When the Finkle Foods Company announces a poetry contest with a chance to shoot a free throw and win one million dollars Eddie is eager to enter, even though he is against the company since they laid-off his mother and Annie's father. Annie helps him to write the poem and he enters. Imagine his surprise when his poem is selected and he is chosen to attend a Knicks game in New York City and shoot the million dollar basket. Annie's father, a former basketball player, become's Eddie's coach and teaches him how to throw foul shots using the best form and without letting distractions get the best of him. Just when Eddie's chances look promising, someone starts sending him hate letters and trying to sabotage his practices. Is it Mr. Finkle? The owner of the company sends a spy to check out Eddie's performance and he is visited by Finkle himself, who offers him a deal for missing on purpose. Eddie refuses to be bribed and before he knows it he, mom, Annie, and her father are traveling to New York for the contest. He gets to go to the Knicks' locker room and meet some of his heroes and then sit in a private box with the Finkle family. Finally halftime arrives and its his big moment. Will Eddie sink the shot? Will he and his mom get out of financial ruin? Is that a developing romance between Mom and Annie's dad? Read the book and find out!

I love Dan Gutman. He has written an vast amount of books for young people and knows what they like, especially reluctant readers. Some of his series include My Weird School and The Baseball Card Adventures. This particular series involves a kid winning a chance to make a shot, goal, putt, or kick with the prize of a million dollars. What kid doesn't fantasize about that? In this installment Eddie and his mom are in tough financial times and could really use the money. Gutman empowers Eddie with the ability to help his mom and make things right. The cast is refreshingly multicultural (Annie and her father are African American), even before the current cry for diversity, and Gutman places both main characters in non-traditional families where they become a new unit of sorts. The Million Dollar Shot is more than a sports book. Other themes include losing friends, the courage it takes for a boy to be friends with a girl, healthy verses unhealthy chemical-filled snacks, and making difficult choices with honesty and integrity. When Finkle tries to blackmail Eddie into purposely losing the contest he confides his dilemma to his mother, who gives him good advise, which shows children that parents can be trusted allies. This book reads quickly and is a comfortable level and length for the intended audience. It is almost twenty years old, which is hard to believe, and therefore is pre-Wimpy Kid, containing no illustrations, which will be a good transition for children to slightly more challenging reading. Eddie lives out many children's fantasies, including visiting the Knicks locker room and fixing his family's troubles financial situation, in this very readable and enjoyable book for young readers. 

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