This engaging first book in a new series has a cast of great characters. As the story unfolds it’s a new fifth grade year for Rip and Red. Everything is going as planned until they arrive and find out they have a first year teacher – Mr. Acevedo. He doesn’t play the part like other teachers do. Ponytail, tattoos, and piercings are just the beginning. There’s no test prep or anything else that seems normal.
The students are diverse. The main ones include, Rip, AKA the African-American kid with locks who loves basketball; his friend Red, a boy on the autism spectrum; and Avery, the girl in a wheelchair. The story follows the class as they attempt to improve their skills doing it Mr. Acevedo’s way. He also happens to be the fifth grade basketball coach so Rip and Red get a double dose of his unorthodox ways.
You won’t get a full understanding of each character’s motivations, but there’s more to come in future books that will allow them to develop further. I enjoyed the short chapters, engaging illustrations throughout, and poignant friendships. A real winning start to this series in more ways than one. Boo Yah!
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015 PAGE COUNT: 243
FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) 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.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME by Phil Bidner
- Such an honest portrayal of a classroom. We label kids as fifth graders (or whatever grade), but what we get is a wide range of readiness, interest, and experiences that make them all unique. It takes a gifted team of teachers to make it work for every child in the classroom.
- A very subtle nudge added to the conversation about testing students. The book doesn’t preach but gives you food for thought.
- A nice balance of settings from the classroom to the basketball court to life at Rip’s home. His mother is a principal at another school making for some pointed dialog with Rip.
- A superb lesson about not treating others based on their outside appearance. That goes for the students and Mr. Acevedo.
- You learn a small dose of what autism is all about. What I liked even better was showing how much a dependable friend can help in a sometimes awkward situation.
I’m the black kid with the hair who lives and breathes basketball. That’s who I am. So they tell me. She’s the kid in the wheelchair. He’s the kid who’s crazy about the Beatles. She’s the kid who loves Hello Kitty. He’s the military kid. She’s the theater kid. He’s the kid who wears hats with earflaps. She’s the kid who runs track. He’s the kid who calls everyone by there first name and there last name. He’s the man with the piercings and tattoos who looks like he in a rock band.
That’s how people see us, that’s how we see one an other, that’s who we are.
That’s not who we are.
I am so much more.
AUTHOR QUOTE (From Phil Bidner’s Website): A new teacher like Mr. Acevedo has probably only had limited interactions with a child on the spectrum, and he’s certainly never been responsible for one in his own classroom. So he’s learning on the fly. That’s something we often lose sight of. Teachers are learners, too. They don’t always get everything right. Just like that’s okay for kids, it’s okay for teachers, too. It’s how we grow. It’s how we get better. That’s who Mr. Acevedo is.
Make a comment here if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.