This sports story by Mike Lupica is part of the "Comeback Kids" series published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group in association with Walden Media, L.L.C.
Shoot-Out is written for kids ages 8 to 12 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Jake Stuart doesn't mind moving to a suburb of his old hometown. He finds a new friend, Quinn, and he hangs out at the local library. What he does mind is his new soccer team. They stink. He's used to being a good player on a good team. Now he's the star player of a losing team.
Coach Lord encourages Jake to be a leader. He also urges the boy to come alongside a teammate named Kevin who has just lost his mother. Jake is repeatedly frustrated by rude replies when he tries to help or talk to Kevin. The team continues to flounder, and Jake feels he's losing his love for the game.
Quinn notices Jake's loss of passion for soccer and encourages him to work on his attitude. Jake tries harder to be positive even when plays aren't going the way he expects. Kevin sees Jake and his mother horsing around and recognizes that Jake is as close to his mom as Kevin was to his. Kevin finally allows Jake to become his friend, and the grieving boy begins to make more effort on the soccer field.
Despite a poor season, Jake is energized when his team has a chance to play his old school. His former teammates razz him, thinking there's no way Jake's team can win. An impassioned game ensues, and Jake offers the final, game-breaking kick to Kevin. Despite his nervousness, Kevin wins the game. He, Jake and the team revel in that moment of victory.
Jake and his parents go to church on Sundays.
Jake's parents are both funny and supportive, but his mom is his best friend. A former college soccer star, she taught Jake to play the game. She gives him pep talks and makes him laugh when he wants to wallow in self-pity. Kevin's mother was also his best friend. She was a writer who inspired Kevin to love reading. Jake's soccer coach urges him to take Kevin under his wing.
Other belief systems
Jake wonders if they'll need the kind of luck possessed by Powerball lottery winners to defeat another soccer team during the season.
Butt and heck appear once or twice.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What does the soccer season teach Jake?
How can you sometimes learn more from losing than winning?
- Why does the coach urge Jake not to go too easy on Kevin?
How are Jake and Kevin finally able to connect and become friends?
What are some things you can do to help a friend who has lost a loved one?
What kinds of things should you avoid saying or doing?
- What are Jake's parents like?
How do they encourage him as a soccer player and in other aspects of his life?
- How important is winning to you?
Have you ever found yourself disliking an activity you once loved because you are no longer successful at it?
What is the value of participating in something you enjoy even if you're not the star?
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