Beartown, by Fredrik Backman (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
33413128I have been a big fan of Fredrik Backman since reading and being absolutely captivated by his first novel, A Man Called Ove. So I didn’t hesitate when I learned he has a new novel, Beartown. I’m happy to report this novel is as mesmerising as I could have hoped. It is, however, quite a different style of writing. Ove,  Britt-Marie and Every Day could all be described as gentle reads, albeit with often irascible protagonists. This is not a gentle read. It grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you from any smug and comfortable perch. Beartown is a hockey town. It’s dying economically, but when the junior boys’ team (there is no girls’ team) makes it to the semi-finals, the entire community rejoices and pins great hopes on their success. Read more of this post

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Two Strikes, by Johnny Boateng (2017)

Contemporary
11-15
Two Strikes by Johnny BoatengThis realistic contemporary story tackles the related themes of racism, sexism and bullying as KalLeah (Kal), a Grade 8 girl of mixed race, struggles to fit in when her RCMP father is transferred from multicultural Halifax to the small town of Trail in British Columbia’s gorgeous Kootenays. Writer Boateng draws on his own experience in this high interest, low reading level (hi-lo) sports novel. Kal is a top-notch ballplayer and scorns the girls’ softball team in favour of the all-boys – at least for now – Trail All-Stars baseball team. Her attempts to prove herself result only in alienating the popular Valley Girls on the girls’ team, leading to cruel insults and cyberbullying. Read more of this post

Face-off at The Alamo (Screech Owls), by Roy MacGregor (2013)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: 10-14
Face-off at The AlamoThe Screech Owls are back! The pee-wee hockey team from the fictional town of Tamarack, B.C. is off to San Antonio, Texas, inexplicably the host of an invitational tournament over the American Thanksgiving weekend. San Antonio is home to The Alamo, an adobe fort that played a pivotal role in the Texas-Mexican War nearly 150 years ago. It’s where the famous Davy Crockett died, along with a number of other famous Americans like Jim Bowie (who left the world the Bowie knife). It’s also where the hockey team finds itself outwitting a dangerous demented criminal whose lack of hockey knowledge is his undoing. Read more of this post

Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally (2011)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Interest Level: 14-18
Catching JordanJordan Woods is a senior in a Tennessee high school, and is both captain and quarterback of the high school football team. Jordan is hoping to be drafted by Alabama for its famed football program. The only snag in Jordan’s life is Dad, a famous quarterback himself who never comes to Jordan’s games, and largely ignores her budding football career. Yes, her. Jordan is a girl, and football is her life. At over six feet and 170, she can throw a perfect spiral nearly 50 yards across a small lake in her backyard (Dad’s a football player, after all). Her best friends are her teammates, and she takes her job as captain seriously, making sure wide receivers are chastised for missing routes or touchdown antics. Read more of this post

The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach (2011)

Genre: Adult Fiction
Interest level: Adult
The Art of FieldingAnother terrific first novel! As the title may suggest, this is a baseball novel. But don’t let that put you off, if you, like me, are not particularly into the sport. (I am very proud of one–the only–amazing catch I made when I was, mystifyingly, in retrospect, playing third base.) The baseball lessons are delivered easily, mixed in with the narrative in such a way that you naturally understand more and more as you progress through the novel. Henry Skrimshander (the Skrimmer) is a shortstop extraordinaire, and is poised for greatness in his sophomore year at Westish College in the midwest. (Wisconsin, if that’s the midwest. I think it is). But his major league future is suddenly in doubt when he begins to falter on the field. Read more of this post