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A Whole New Ballgame: 01/20/16
A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner is about a pair of best friends excited to play basketball in PE at their school now that they're fifth graders. Everything though gets thrown out of whack when there's a new fifth grade teacher who is also the new PE coach. Worse yet, he wants to get the school competing in the local league.
You'd think that getting to play against other schools would be bonus for two basketball obsessed kids, but it isn't. Rip happens to on the autistic spectrum. He may love basketball but he might not be ready for an actual competition. Red, though, has Rip's back and works with the new teacher and with Rip's parents to find solutions that work for both boys.
I entered this book with concerns. First and foremost, basketball isn't my thing and sport themed books can be tightly focused on winning the "big game" or similar. Here though, basketball is part of the boys' world but not the entirety of it.
Likewise, Rip's autism is part of his character, but not all of it. Nor is it played up to make this book all about it. Finally, Red is Black with dreadlocks but again that's not called out. Nor is it played that it should be normal for Red like basketball solely because he's Black. Rather, he likes basketball because of his long standing friendship with Rip. It's an interest that has grown organically.
A second book is planned for release later in 2016. It's called Rookie of the Year.