J.J. thinks this year he will lead his eighth-grade team to the conference title. But bad breaks, a new coach, and a long-standing grudge sabotage J.J.’s hopes and leave him struggling on and off the court. Can J.J. and his teammates salvage a lost season?
Whether you are basketball lover or just mildly follow the sport, author Sean McCollum delivers a sweet tale about perseverance, team work, and digging deep to find the person you want to be. The story truly is 1 for all.
The first person narration stays close to star J.J. Picket, captain of the eighth-grade Traverse Middle School Musketeers. He lives with his parents and younger sister. When problems at home and on his team bring new challenges, he’s not ready to deal with what it takes to be a respected leader and teammate.
There’s a whole season of basketball here as J.J. looks to his friends, coach, and his dad for advice. The interactions are honest and authentic. No, the Musketeers won’t be winning any championship this year, but what they get instead will last them a lifetime.
An enjoyable and often heartfelt look at being a teen athlete.
Published: 2020 Page Count: 142
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT 1 FOR ALL by Sean McCollum
- Help is here for those who don’t know the difference between a roll post and a box out. All the basketball terms are explained in the back pages and plays are diagrammed within the story.
- The analogy Dad uses of hornets attacking from inside when things don’t go right is a special moment he shares with his son. The conversation lasts less than one page but any teen who is struggling would benefit from the words.
- Sport fans will enjoy the strategizing it takes to compete with a team better than your own.
- Urges readers to dig deeper about people they don’t respect and find their true story. Every one has an untold tale.
- Sequel please. The ninth grade year would sure be fun to follow.
About the Author
Sean McCollum was raised in Wisconsin, graduated from Lawrence University, and left the United States soon after to backpack around the world. During his travels, he worked on scientific projects in Australia and the South Pacific, taught English in East Asia, and traveled overland 5,000 miles across Africa. Drawing on his adventures, McCollum began a career in writing in New York City in 1992. Today, Sean is a digital nomad, writing stories and articles from all around the world. Together with his partner of 30 years, Sean has lived in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, Oceania and the South Pacific, and has traveled in some 65 countries. He is the author of more than 60 titles and hundreds of magazine articles for such publications as National Geographic Kids, Junior Scholastic, and Teaching Tolerance. Sean also develops online educational content for the Kennedy Center. 1 For All is his first book with Brattle Trade, a Division of Brattle Publishing Group®.
I searched the globe for Sean and finally found him in Arizona of all places. He agreed to answer a few of my questions this morning. Welcome Sean to ALWAYS in the MIDDLE…
Where did the idea come from to write 1 FOR ALL?
Hi Greg! This novel was apparently bubbling in me for decades. I have been a big sports fan since the time I could double dribble, and the story has roots in my own time as a third-string guard in 8th grade oh so long ago. Like the Musketeers in the story, our squad was shortish but our coach really emphasized stamina, speed, and quickness. We ended up being a pretty good team.
At the heart of the story for me, though, was the question of how we deal with adversity. If the team is at the bottom of the standings, why should we keep showing up to play? If you know you’re not going to be a starter, should you even go out for the team? I think nurturing a love of the game and teamwork is more important than winning, especially in youth sports. Winning streaks end. Love lasts.
Well said! How long was the journey to get your story published? Anything you would do differently?
Great question. This book is more than ten years in the actual writing, editing, and publishing. I had been working on other projects with Richard Lena and Carol Karton at Brattle, and the opportunity arose to share this story that had disappeared into a drawer somewhere. After some very helpful guidance and criticism from Rich and Carol, the novel took on a fuller shape. It became a collaboration and that made all the difference.
What would I do differently? Read more and more constantly the works of Chris Crutcher, Mike Lupica, Kwame Alexander, Bill Konigsberg, Jason Reynolds, and Sue Macy—among others.
How did your main character, J.J. Pickett, come about? Did he evolve as you wrote the initial drafts, or did you already have his traits and character arc set before forming the plot?
J.J. definitely evolved. At first, he was too likable. He was the hero, after all. But in novels, especially MG novels, the protagonist has to face and engage with events that change her or him in significant ways. So I had to rewrite J.J. multiple times to add some rougher edges to start with so he could show more growth and development. It’s a balancing act to create characters who are likable enough that we want to cheer for them on their journey, but also with enough flaws that changes are noticeable.
In my fiction writing, the character usually leads the way into the plot. After that, the plot and characters influence and shape each other. I constantly asked the question: “How will J.J. respond to this situation in a way that’s true to his character?” At the same time, I want readers to be surprised by twists in both characterization and plot. I have this internal guide when I’m reading a story or watching a movie or show: If I can predict EXACTLY what the character says or does next, then the writers did not do their job. To create something understandable and coherent but still surprising—that’s the sweet spot.
What appeals to you about writing for middle grade?
I have so many different genres that come out to play in my imagination—nonfiction, fiction, picture books, chapter books, middle grade, YA, etc. Very quickly a story tells me who the audience is, and I go with that. But there’s also this middle-school age kid who still lives in me who remembers the feelings associated with winning, losing, saying something stupid or mean, failure, and first kisses.
Middle grade holds a special place for me, because it’s that threshold that connects childhood to adolescence to adulthood. To make that transition requires a boatload of mistakes, and sailing that boat takes courage and fortitude—all great themes for stories. I don’t think it’s enough, though, to tell tweens and teens, “Go ahead and make mistakes!” We adults need to be willing to reveal the mistakes WE make and have made and model healthy ways we’ve developed to deal with them. (Or unhealthy, let’s be honest.) Only then can young people get a real sense of how to own up to them, cope with them, and have some faith or confidence that the world does not end every time we mess up.
What is your writing routine? Every day at a specific time or just whenever you find the inspiration?
On a perfect day, I wake up very early, make coffee, meditate, then sit down to write. But I try not to let perfection get in the way of progress. So I write when I can, but mornings are when the words come more easily. Distractions are my biggest hurdles these days. I currently find current events way too interesting!
Me too. What projects you are working on now?
Besides work work as a freelance writer, I’ve got a picture book We CAN’T Go Outside! that I’m trying to sell, and am in the middle of revising a chapter book, Daisy and May, about a prairie dog and the girl who rescues her. I’m also in the planning stages of a YA novel called Lucky Boots about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which I did a few years ago. I’ve got notebooks full of more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write, but as long as new ones keep dropping into the old gumball machine, I’ll keep writing them down.
I received a copy of the book for my honest review. Please comment below.