Matthew Dellavedova (text), Nathalie Ortega (illustrator), Daring Delly: Team Tryouts!, Scholastic Australia, September 2019, 144 pp,. RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781743831922
Delly is super sporty and loves to play footy, tennis and basketball. When tryouts are called for a new local basketball team, Delly can’t wait. Unfortunately, he fails to make the cut. He is disappointed, but instead of feeling sorry for himself, he helps his less-sporty school friend Mick, who did make the team, develop his basketball skills. When Mick is finding it too hard and is ready to give up, Delly comes up with creative ways to help him learn the skills he needs.
Daring Delly: Team Tryouts is the first book in a new series from Australian NBA champion Matthew Dellavedova. The stories draw on his own childhood experiences of playing basketball, written as a chapter books for primary school-aged children. This first book is fantastic – it’s very engaging, realistic and thoughtfully written. Themes of friendship, compassion and managing tricky emotions are nicely integrated into the story, and Delly is an excellent and relatable role model for kids.
It is not a short book, yet the text is very clear and easy to read, and some words are bold to help with visual tracking. Some of the text is also included as illustrations, appearing as lists and letters. The greyscale illustrations are great but serve more to make the book visually appealing than help with understanding; they help to break up large chunks of text and add interest.
Daring Delly has an interesting and carefully crafted plot, and the pacing is fast and engaging for the readership. The language is simple but hasn’t dumbed down the more complex thoughts and feelings of Delly.
This book is also brilliant for beginner basketballers. As well as learning the technical language related to basketball, there are clear descriptions and illustrations of the key techniques and rules of the game. This is a great way to start to get to know the game!
Despite the protagonist being male, Daring Delly clearly isn’t just aimed at boys, and the diversity in the book (included without fanfare) is pleasing. One of the main characters is a girl who is skilled at basketball and tennis, and the illustrations also depict a person of colour who is part of Delly’s friendship group and basketball team.
I highly recommend this book for primary school-aged readers and look forward to reading more of the series.
Reviewed by Bec Blakeney