A Whole New Ballgame

A Whole New Ballgame

By Phil Bildner; Tim Probert (Illustrator)

Pub. Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
Age Range: 8 to 12
ISBN-10: 0374301301
ISBN-13: 9780374301309

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Awards & Honors:

2017 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award Nominee
2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 3–5
2015-2016 Maine Student Book Award Nomination
2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Middle Grade Fiction

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Junior Library Guild

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn’t believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects, the more “off” the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other–and find ways to make a difference–in the classroom and on the court. With its energetic and authentic story and artwork, this is a fresh, fun book about school, sports, and friendship.


Reviews

Children’s Book Council

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn’t believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects, the more “off” the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo! Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other–and find ways to make a difference–in the classroom and on the court. With its energetic and authentic story and artwork, this is a fresh, fun book about school, sports, and friendship.

Kirkus Reviews

Fifth grade is, as the title indicates, a whole new ballgame for best friends Rip and Red. Mason Irving is called Rip by everyone but his best friend, Blake Daniels, nicknamed Red. Rip is “the black kid with the hair who lives and breathes basketball.” Red is the kid on the autistic spectrum who can’t really play basketball, except that he’s a phenomenal free-throw shooter. The duo is part of a class at Reese Jones Elementary, where students are known by simplistic tags—the kid in the wheelchair, the kid who gets to wear a hat, “the kid who still drools.” Rip knows that’s how people see them, but he also knows “that’s not who we are,” and after a year with Mr. Acevedo, “the man with the piercings and tattoos,” the class transcends differences and labels and becomes a community of friends. Unlike many school stories for this age, Bildner’s is gentle, inspiring, and full of affection for children, born of his own years as a teacher. If the students are inspiring, so is Mr. Acevedo, who risks his job to do such radical things as reading aloud and encouraging free reading. (He’s supposed to be preparing the kids to take tests!) Probert’s cartoonish illustrations lend energy and personality to the likable cast of characters. A school story with heart. (Fiction. 8-12)

Publishers Weekly

Rip and his best friend Red, who is on the autism spectrum, can’t wait to be on their school’s fifth-grade basketball team. But budget cuts, a focus on test prep, and a new teacher/basketball coach with tattoos, ear piercings, and a wealth of unconventional ideas are shaking things up. Rip isn’t sure that Mr. Avecedo’s methods will work (on or off the court), especially when he has to work on a group project paired with a hostile classmate, Avery, who uses a wheelchair. But through Mr. Avecedo’s guidance, Rip, who some see only as “the black kid who plays basketball,” and his classmates learn to see beyond the labels society places on them. The book’s messages about teamwork, test-prep dependency, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone can be overpowering, but this warm slice-of-life novel from Bildner (the Sluggers series) engages and entertains even so. Probert’s energetic illustrations match the positive exuberance of the story as both test day and the big game approach. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Aug.)

School Library Journal

Gr 4–6—Red and Rip are best friends just beginning fifth grade. It’s the first day of school and everyone appears to know who the teacher will be and how the year will progress—but not so fast…there is a new teacher, a young man with piercings, tattoos, and a whole new way of teaching. Mr. Acevedo loves reading, will not abide test prep or standardized test-taking, and has a love of basketball. Readers will realize early on that Red is on the autism spectrum. Like their new teacher, Red and Rip share a passion for basketball. Narrated by Rip (better known as Mason Irving to Red, who insists on calling his friend by his full name and never his nickname), the book depicts the evolution of a group of fifth graders who learn a lot, grow a lot, and help one another. The relationship between Rip and Avery Goodman (a girl in a wheelchair with anger issues) centers on a class project about gross things and highlights what nasty stuff gets caught on Avery’s wheelchair wheels. Though the plot and its conclusion may be somewhat predictable, the charming and diverse characters as well as the engaging voice of Rip more than make up for it. VERDICT Pure fun with a lot of heart.—Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City

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