David Lawrence (text), James Hart (illus.), The Bench Warmers (Ball Stars, #1), Random House, 30 January 2017, 135 pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143781639
David Lawrence, James Hart (illus.), Heat Wave, (Ball Stars, #2), Random House, 30 January 2017, 132 pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143781653
Eleven year old Danny is new to Robdale. Although he prefers computer games to socialising, he surprises himself when he strikes up a friendship with Crystal, another new student to Robdale Primary. They join a school basketball team, coached by their teacher, Miss Wright, and end up in an unlikely group of underdogs. Undeterred, they band together to become the Benchwarmers. Each player has something special to contribute to the team. Danny loves practising shooting baskets, and finds out he is great at scoring three-pointers. The school principal, Miss Take (who knows nothing about basketball), wants to win the interschool competition so badly, she decides to coach the team herself. The team need to get creative if they are to stand a chance.
In the second book of the Ball Stars series, Danny and his friends are now playing club basketball for the Robdale Raptors. Besides a grand final, they also have a school play to contend with. They learn a lot of new skills, but most of all they learn that the most important rule is to have fun. In these light hearted books it is the students who shine and some of the adults who are the rule-breakers, although they do receive their come-uppance, which adds to the humour. The stories are full of positive energy, and include interesting basketball facts, terminology and tips. Fun cartoon-like illustrations are sprinkled throughout.
These books were written in partnership with Basketball Australia. I am pleased to see more sport titles in junior fiction. Young people love to read about the sports they are interested in, and this series has the potential to reach out to readers who might consider becoming players. Ball Stars #3, Reppin’ It and #4, On Tour will be available in May.
Recommended for middle primary readers and lovers of basketball. e-book versions are also available.
Reviewed by Sharon Seymour