Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Five Gold Hoops for Shooting Star
Author Michael Embry
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
Every teen’s dream is to become a star on the court, but not every one has the talent, the drive and the incentive like Jesse Christopher. Unassuming, polite, reserved, respectful and hoping to attend a high school that provides a good academic program which is primary to his mother, and an opportunity to shoot some hoops and play basketball, to his father, this young man seems to have what it takes to succeed. Observing him on the court both the coach and assistant coach of Walker County High School become overly enthused excited and think he is the answer to winning games for their school. But, there is so much more that needs to be addressed before he can play. Entering a new school, being the new kid on the block is not easy. All too often whether you are over six feet tall as Jesse is or even the short kid on the block, obstacles need to be faced, dealing with the other kids can be hard and choices need to be made. Meet Jesse and learn more about him as I review Shooting Stars by author Michael Embry.
Jealousy and prejudice can rear their ugly heads when you least expect it. As Jesse starts school he begins to feel uneasy about his teammates and their reaction to him. Some seem lukewarm and others quite distant. Some feel he’s an asset to the team others would prefer their own school members and not someone knew. Added to the mix is his literature teacher’s questions and reaction to him on his first day. I found that a little unsettling that a teacher would ask such personal questions of any student. But, that might possibly be the norm when someone does not know how to react the right way or harbors prejudices of their own. Will Mr. Dickson every change his opinion of Jesse? Yet, Jessie’s mom realizes from the start that something is wrong and reminds him to verbalize his concerns and not harbor any fears. But, high school kids like to deal with things on their own. Jesse is Hispanic American and as the coach stated that could sometimes be a problem but it should not.
One young basketball hopeful whose family migrated from Florida to attend high school and just play basketball. Jesse Christopher is a natural but never played on a team before and questions arise with his team members as to whether he will benefit them or not. Problems arise within Jesse, the team and at times as he states he feels Invisible. Not so unusual in today’s world where kids judge you by your appearance, race, the clothes you wear and how much money your father has or gives you. When he tells one of the players he has to go home and mow the lawn and has family obligations the reaction is astounding as the other states his father pays someone to do that. Character, stamina, challenges and much more will hinder Jesse as he learns that rebounds are not only on the court and shooting baskets not his only hurdle.
Jesse’s father has a mild heart attack while they are shooting some hoops and prejudice once again rears more than its ugly head in the form of a brick thrown at one of their windows leaving Jesse to wonder who and why this would happen. Befriending one of the players named Rashawn, practicing really hard for the first game and just trying to fit in seems to be a full time job for him. Dealing with race issues, learning that not everyone wants him on the team, worrying about his dad, and hoping that they won’t have to keep moving are just some of the issues this 17-year-old young man has to deal with. But, Jesse is rare. He is kind, understanding, polite, respectful and supportive of his other teammates and family. His parents are amazing where others insist that college is a must; his parents are willing to leave the choice up to him. In the mix is Maggie Leach, the daughter of his father’s boss. His father works at the stables and cares and tends to the horses. I have a 15-year-old niece that would envy that position. She tends to her own horse and loves riding. But, there is much more to learn before the story ends and much more to unfold as I continue my review of Shooting Star.
Author Michael Embry’s characters are true to life, realistic and definitely typical high school kids that strife for attention, want to be in the limelight, do not want their court time shortened and definitely have issues with having Jessie, an outstanding player that most admire and aspire to on their team. Meet Cody who seems to resent him and just about everyone and everything else. Harry, who is dating Maggie and would not appreciate Jesse being her friend and the rest of the team whose feelings are definitely mixed. But, wait until the first game and let’s see what happens to our star. Everyone wants to be a shooting star. Everyone wants his or her chance to shine. Imagine shooting 250 shots everyday which is what his father taught him to do in order to be the best he can be.
The one question that seems to gnaw at him is why everyone thinks he is Mexican and that he and his family are migrants. Prejudice and bias just from looking at someone from their outer appearance and predetermining who they are before getting to know them. How sad is that? Added to that some teammates are resentful of the new staring lineup and feel that Jesse might ruin the chemistry of the team. One special manager named Freddie with Down syndrome who connects with Jesse yet the others treat him differently. Eddie Joe and Cody, smiling at you on the outside and definitely another agenda on the inside as Jesse learns some hard and fast lessons trying to fit in but will he? Locker room talk, the coaches pep talks to two players, unusual practices that throw Jesse’s momentum off and one Coach who is so on top of things, caring and considerate you just might want to suit up and play on his team. Teaching the players understanding, teamwork and definitely not allowing any harassment, bullying or name calling, will our stalwart and strong minded young Jessie be able to withstand what others just might dish out? Will they win the championship and come out on top as more than just winner? That remains to be seen.
But just when things seem to be on an uphill swing, Jessie has a major setback, gets seriously ill and has to miss several weeks of school. His friendship with Maggie disturbs Harry and Cody seems to want to find a way to eliminate him from the team no matter how much of an asset he might be.
Jesse is despondent hoping to return to the game but not quite ready. With his team losing games and not performing as well without him just returning to the bench seems to spark them on but some players on one father seem to feel they would do better without him and one reporter digs deeper into his past, how he got on the team and trouble ensues where it should not.
As an educator I definitely admire the coaches, their integrity and the way they expect the players to handle themselves. Yet, some of the players were still rude to him, unfeeling and even one teacher had trouble warming up to his kind, polite and what every teen should be young man. Trying to set the right example proves difficult at times for Jesse but with the support and kindness of Maggie he just might succeed. Returning to the game proves to be a challenge for him but not the game. Teammates are resentful, some would like him to remain out and others are just glad to have him back. One true friend named Rashawn, a star in his own right seems to have it all together and watches his back. But, Cody and Eddie Joe have other plans in mind and Cody’s dad seems bent on making trouble for Jesse and Cody is right in front of him if not running up ahead.
The end result is quite compelling as Jesse is injured several times, the team learns some hard and fast lessons about loyalty and friendship and his time on the court is jeopardized by one reporter whose facts are misplaced and unfounded. Coach Webster is one man who won’t take the heat from the reporters and will definitely step up his team’s game but not before some learn some hard and fast lessons. Will they win the High School Championship? Will they ever get to the state finals? Will Cody and Eddie Joe become part of the team? Just who tipped off the reporters and started the investigation into how Jesse became part of the team? The final score: Read the book and find out all this game plays out.
Prejudice, hate, intentional fouls in more ways than one, players that need lessons in sportsmanship and leadership and two players that would not give up nor allow anything to stand in their way: Jesse: Rashawn two Shooting Stars: But let’s not forget Tim and Freddie whose truly an inspiration.
This book gets FIVE GOLD HOOPS:
Fran Lewis: Reviewer