Prince stands over Brendo, tapping his head – basketball sign language to say – I dunked on your head. Prince is flexing and he’s screaming at the top of his lungs like he’s powering up like Goku.
Prince tries to stop Brendo from getting back to his feet, but Brendo jumps up and pushes Prince. Prince shoves him back.
Jojo grabs Brendo and pushes him away.
“On your head, white boy!” Prince shouts.
Jojo turns around and shoves Prince with everything he has. Prince stumbles back and falls to the ground.
“What!” Jojo shouts at Prince.
With cat-like speed, Prince jumps back to his feet and smiles eerily. His face is just inches from Jojo’s.
Jojo sees a crazy look in Prince’s eyes. Jojo’s heart is racing, and he’s scared that Prince Bol might haul off and punch him. But he holds his ground and prepares to defend himself. Where the hell are his teammates? Or the ref? Anyone?
“Y’all trash,” Prince says. Suddenly, he steps back and winds up. Jojo braces himself. Suddenly, he feels his body levitate with such force it makes his head spin.
Jojo and his closest friends, Brendo, Jose and Jazz, are grade nine students positive that they will selected for their school basketball team. They love playing basketball on the courts in the community but, more importantly, they love filming and posting videos of themselves on their social media feeds. It seems that posting and commenting on various platforms and always upping the difficulty of their tricks and stunts increase the number of followers they have. For the boys, basketball skills and physical fitness have taken a back seat to coming up with, filming and posting various basketball tricks to impress their followers.
Coach Pritchard is working with and training the grade nine boys on the basketball team, and he is not impressed with Jojo and his friends. The boys arrive unprepared and late for practices. They don’t work hard, and they goof around a lot. They don’t seem to be taking basketball and their play on the team seriously enough for Coach, and they don’t act like team players. Coach Pritchard is seriously thinking of cutting the boys from the team. He is very hard on the boys, and Jojo feels that Coach is treating them unfairly. Jojo feels that Coach especially has it out for him, and he complains about it a lot.
Hoopers is one of Lorimer’s “Sports Stories” books. It is full of action and is a relatively short book with simple vocabulary that is within reach of most middle years reading levels. That much of the action takes place during basketball practices and games adds excitement to the story.
This story is filled with wonderful and diverse characters from many different backgrounds. I like how the characters’ ethnicity is subtly dropped into the story via such things as a note written in another language and various food dishes. This adds colour and detail to the story. However, I found the dialogue difficult to follow at times. The main characters speak in a kind of gansta style dialect that often left me baffled. Frequently, I could only take a guess at what was being conveyed by the dialogue. Perhaps some young readers would understand it, but, in my opinion, students who are struggling with reading, or who are new English language learners will have difficulty with this gangsta style conversation.
There were also a couple of places in Hoopers where anger and aggression are described. In one instance, Coach is angry and kicks a locker. This is not addressed in any way as aggressive behaviour, and he never apologizes or even comments about the incident. In another instance, Jojo punches the fridge because his mother isn’t home to give him the answer to a simple question. Again, the aggression is not discussed or explained in the text. In my mind, not addressing this kind of action condones this behaviour and might make readers think that, because it happened in this story, it’s okay to kick or punch something.
Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of the “Tunnels of Moose Jaw Adventure” series as well as many other books, including her Reconciliation books, Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone and Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, published by DriverWorks Ink. She revised and republished Tunnels of Time (Moose Jaw Adventure # 1) with DriverWorks Ink in September 2020 and Tunnels of Terror (Moose Jaw Adventure # 2) in September 2021. She is currently working on revising Tunnels of Treachery for release in 2022. Always busy and interested in kids and writing, Mary is currently undertaking writing projects with schools as well as mentoring adult writers and doing author presentations. Currently, she is teaching a Canadian Children’s Literature class to master’s students at the University of Saskatchewan. You can find Mary on Facebook and view video clips on her YouTube channel. You can also find her books on the DriverWorks Ink website.