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Travel Team



Last updated Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Author: Mike Lupica
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0399241507
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2007

Synopsis: From Amazon.com: Danny is a basketball fanatic. He is smart, talented, fast, and dedicated, but short. When he fails to make the seventh-grade travel team, he also fails to follow in the footsteps of his legendary father, Richie Walker, who led his own 12-year-old team to win the nationals and whose career was tragically ended by a car accident. Danny, who lives with his warm and supportive mom, has a somewhat stilted relationship with his less-reliable father. Danny did not make the squad because of the machinations of Richie's childhood nemesis, Mr. Ross, a controlling man who is determined to build a winning team...Danny and the others cut from the travel team predictably form their own squad, coached by his father who battles alcoholism (and another car accident!) to lead them, with Danny's leadership, to the climactic game against their arch rivals. Although the kids compare themselves to the Bad News Bears, they are strictly old-school, harkening back to Stephen W. Meader's Sparkplug of the Hornets(Harcourt, 1968; o.p.). There's even a sweetly innocent romance with a wise-beyond-her-years girl who uses IM/chat to provide Danny with support just when he needs it most.

Note to readers:
•  We recommend you start reading at chapter 5, when the story really starts to get interesting. Here's a summary you can read to the kids, so they are familiar with the characters and know what happens in the first four chapters: Danny Walker is twelve years old and loves playing basketball. He practices out in front of his house every day after school, because he knows that the best basketball players are the ones that work harder than everybody else. Danny may be the smallest kid in his grade, but he's also the fastest runner, the best passer, and always one of the first-chosen for teams. There is just one thing-- Danny has just found out that he didn't make the local travel team, and he's crushed. The coach thinks he's just too small. Danny lives with his mom, an English teacher. They don't have a lot of money, but she always makes sure Danny has basketball sneakers and a place to practice. Danny's father, Richie Walker, comes to visit once in awhile. He stops by the same day that Danny finds out he didn't make the travel team. In a way, Richie understands what Danny is going through. Richie also played basketball when he was younger, and he was short just like Danny. Richie was always more comfortable just shooting hoops with his son rather than talking with him so Danny has to learn about his dad's basketball career on the internet. When Danny's father was twelve, he led his travel team all the way to the finals of the nationals and won. He then went on to play basketball in college and the NBA. But it doesn't seem like Danny will get a chance to follow in his dad's footsteps. The next day at school, it's obvious that everyone already knows that Danny didn't make the travel team. His friends Will and Tess try to talk to him about it, but Danny's not really in the mood. It's going to be a long week.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What sports do you like to play?
•  Can boys and girls play sports together?
•  Who is your favorite player?
•  Do you like team sports/individual sports?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you think that you should be selected on teams based on size rather than how well you play?
•  Do you think that it was "fair" to NOT choose Danny for the travel team? Why or why not?
•  Do you think kids treat each other differently when they are alone as opposed to when they are around grown ups?
•  Pg69. What do you think Richie Walker is going to do? (hint: start his own team?)
•  What do you think will happen next? (always a great question!)

Craft ideas:
•  Make jersey numbers with their favorite player and team and number.
•  Design a mascot for a makeshift team they come up with in class.
•  Talk about the Olympic games next year and ask if the kids know anything about them.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!