My nine-year-old son loves to read, but he gravitates to nonfiction more than fiction. He’ll read about sports for hours, but is picky when it comes to novels. I am constantly on the lookout for fiction titles that will grab his attention, and Mike Lupica’s books are winners every time.
Mike Lupica’s newest story, The Underdogs captured my son’s attention immediately. The Underdogs tells the story of Will Tyler, a 12-year-old boy who loves football. He has the speed and skill to succeed on the field, but he doesn’t have a team. The town of Forbes, an industrial town in Pennsylvania, is in dire straits after the closing of the local factory. With no money for extras, the town is forced to cancel youth sports leagues. Will can’t imagine life without football, so he writes to New Balance in hopes that they will sponsor the Forbes football team. When New Balance says yes, Will has the money for the team, but players and enthusiasm are difficult to find. Will uses innovative and interesting ways to keep his dream alive and re-energize the hard-pressed people of Forbes.
Football is at the heart of this story, but Lupica also explores determination, friendship, good sportsmanship, father/son relationships, boy/girl relationships (in a very benign way), and economic disparity. Although this book is targeted to younger readers, I enjoyed the story, and I was happy to pass this well-written page-turner on to my son. As boys enter the 9-12 age range, it can be difficult to keep them reading. Books like The Underdogs are the perfect fit for kids who are difficult to please and parents who want their kids to love reading. I highly recommend this book, and I invite you to read my review of Mike Lupica’s The Big Field as well.
Lauren is a wife, mother of two, and an avid reader. She thanks Penguin Young Readers for the review copy of this book. Lauren blogs at Baseballs and Bows.