TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
"Travel Team's" star point guard, the great — but short — basketball player Danny Walker, is back in author Mike Lupica's latest sports novel, "Summer Ball." This time around, it's the summer after eighth grade, and Danny and his best friends Will and Ty are about to head off from Middletown, Long Island to a high-rated, highly competitive basketball camp in rural Maine.
When Danny arrives at Josh Cameron's Right Way Camp, it seems that everything is stacked against him. His opponent from the travel team's national championship game, Rasheed Hill, is a star at the camp, and he's still angry with what he thinks of as Danny's "flop" to get a crucial foul called. Instead of getting assigned to a cabin with his friends, Danny, who's already sensitive about his small size, is placed with younger kids. Right away, Danny makes an enemy of his coach, Ed Powers, who won't even give Danny a chance to prove himself on the court among his bigger, stronger teammates. And worst of all? The Kobe Bryant-like Lamar Parrish, a flashy, cocky player, taunts Danny at every opportunity … and he has the skills to back it up.
But there are some good things for Danny along the way, too, including new friend Tarik, young camper Zach Fox, and, perhaps best of all, his friend / girlfriend Tess Hewitt, who is spending part of the summer just across Coffee Lake from the camp.
The book builds toward the inevitable championship game, in which Danny and his teammates are matched up against Lamar's squad. Once again, Danny will have to prove himself when it matters most, with the entire camp, his friends, Tess, and his parents all watching. Although the ending is a bit predictable, I really enjoyed this book and basically read it in one sitting. Danny Walker is a good but real kid. His temper and stubbornness are nicely contrasted by his big heart and courage. I can't believe there's a reader around who wouldn't be rooting for him. Plus, the relationships between Danny and his friends ring true throughout the novel, and there's plenty of exciting basketball action to keep the story moving along at a brisk pace.
This book is a natural for fans of "Travel Team," but it would also be great for newcomers, too. Middle school boys and girls alike, particularly those who enjoy sports and basketball, should love this book.