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Annotation: To help his dog through cancer treatment, Conor gives up hockey, finds himself considering who he is without the sport that has defined him, and starts connecting more with his family and best friend.
Catalog Number: #154437
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
Publisher: Atheneum
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 404 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-481-44661-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-481-44661-7
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017025626
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
An 11-year-old elite hockey player struggles with multiple real-world issues while sidelined from pursuing his dream of playing in the NHL.Conor MacRae, who is half-white, half-Japanese, and wise beyond his years, lives with his dad, Keith, a white cop, and his dog, Sinbad. Conor's mom died many years ago, and he is estranged from his Japanese grandparents. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, the treatments are so costly that Conor cuts back on ice time to help save money. The list of adult responsibilities that Conor manages is formidable for such a young boy, and the more time he spends off the ice, the more he notices the tougher parts of life. Kadohata weaves a parallel between Sinbad's cancer and a concussion Conor suffers in the second half of the book, with boy and dog functioning at less than 100 percent. The dog is not only companion and protector, but a beloved comfort in a tough world, a relationship as tenderly realized as that between Conor and his dad. The Korean traditions of his best friend, Jae-won, highlight Conor's distance from his Japanese heritage. As the season progresses, Conor grows in maturity and strength, learning more from mistakes than successes. Strong readers will enjoy a robust identity story that takes an unvarnished look at life. Zorat's chapter-head illustrations help set the tone.Best for dog lovers, hockey fans, and elite athletes. (Fiction. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
Conor MacRae may not be a stellar student, but the half-Japanese 11-year-old is a champ on the ice. Conor lives and breathes hockey, especially with imminent tryouts for the Grizzlies, a AAA team. When Conor-s pet Doberman gets cancer, he has to decide whether to give up expensive hockey lessons to pay for Sinbad-s chemotherapy. Revealing the sacrifices young athletes and their families must often make, National Book Award winner Kadohata (The Thing About Luck) creates a deeply poignant story about a boy sorting out his priorities. Conor fills readers in on a wealth of hockey details, slowing the pace somewhat, but his problems are deeply relatable, and Kadohata never sugarcoats harsh realities. Conor-s hockey commitments contributed to his father-s and stepmother-s divorce (-When a kid plays travel hockey, it takes up a lot of space in your life. Some people don-t like that-), and their precarious financial situation is viscerally felt. Despite its sad moments, Kadohata-s story is uplifting on balance, sensitively showing how Conor-s hardships have made him wiser and more realistic without diminishing his passions. Ages 10-14. (Feb.)

School Library Journal
Gr 4-6 "Hockey kid" Conor McRae is obsessed with his sport. At age 12, he's playing for an elite level team in his L.A. suburb and begins competing nationally. A mediocre student, he devotes himself totally to training and practicing for his planned career as a pro hockey player. All of this is a challenge for Conor's police officer dad, a widower who is now divorced from his second wife. To compound matters, Conor's Doberman, Sinbad, is diagnosed with cancer and will require a $7,000 treatment. Kadohata is a hockey mom, according to a back cover note, and she aptly describes the enormous sacrifice of money and time required for competition at Conor's level. But while hockey gives some structure to the narrative, the story ultimately lacks focus and sprawls over too many plotlines, including Dad's dissatisfaction with his police work, money troubles, the dog's illness, Conor's estranged grandparents, his training regimen and relationships with Eastern European coaches, his budding prayer life, a brain injury, and a wildfire that dominates the opening of the book and then ceases to be a plot element. Narrated by Conor, the story is a blizzard of facts and observations as if told by a tween unable to discern which events advance the plot and which ones distract from it. Descriptions of hockey play are lengthy and detailed. VERDICT The novel is wholesome and the tone positive, but it never achieves any narrative traction. Purchase only where youth hockey is extremely popular. Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* "Hockey is in my soul," says Conor, whose father actually played in the NHL for three weeks. Conor's Japanese American mother died when he was two, but his recently divorced dad completely supports Conor's devotion to the sport, though it means driving him to private lessons that aren't easy to afford on a policeman's salary. A stable, reliable kid, 11-year-old Conor is shaken when he learns that his dog, a Doberman named Sinbad, has cancer and requires expensive treatment. To save money, Conor gives up lessons and starts doing odd jobs for neighbors, but hearing his father cry at night makes him wonder if he's still asking too much. Immediately engaging, this perceptive novel focuses on the intricacies of Conor's day-to-day life, while exploring his unusually close relationships with Dad and Sinbad, his attempts to cope during a period of ongoing crisis, and the alternate universe that is the ice during lessons, practices, and games. Even when the story begins to veer toward drama, it soon returns to everyday routine. Yet, the first-person narrative becomes increasingly absorbing throughout the novel, as the characters reveal themselves more fully. Kadohata offers a vivid, memorable portrayal of a boy within his family, his sport, and his gradually broadening world.
Word Count: 75,301
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 193862 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.6 / points:19.0 / quiz:Q72586
Lexile: 760L


I GAZE AT the tall stairs and pause, gathering my strength, leaning my head back to stretch my neck. The sky's a little gray 'cause there's a fire near our house--we live in Canyon Country, near the Angeles National Forest, and the forest is on fire. But this morning the smoke still looked far away, so Dad and I decided to drive to the park and do our usual sixty-minute Saturday workout, just 'cause we're workout animals. If you make an excuse not to work out one time, that means you can make an excuse the next time too. We've brought my Doberman, Sinbad, like we always do. There're 280 concrete stairs leading from one level of the park to another. Now Sinbad looks at me eagerly, wagging his stub of a tail, but he never climbs up and down the stairs with us. He just doesn't see the point.

Dad starts running up the stairs, and I follow. "Come on, Sinbad!" I cry out, but even without looking, I know he won't join in. Dad's thirty-five and in amazing shape for an older guy. He's already way ahead of me, so I pick it up. It's eighty degrees, though it's only seven in the morning, and I'm immediately sweating. June in Canyon Country can get pretty hot.

My mind is on how my next week is looking hockey-wise. Tomorrow, three and a half hours of stick time with Shu Zhang. Then dryland muscle work with Shu. Monday, power skating and coaches' time with Aleksei Petrov. Tuesday, pre-tryout clinic with Dusan Nagy. Wednesday, off day. Thursday, lesson with Ivan Bogdanov. He's a figure skater who competed for Bulgaria in the Olympics. I skate with him to help my agility. Friday, pre-tryout clinic with another club in case I don't make my first-choice team in almost two weeks. Saturday, three and a half hours of stick time with Shu. Then dryland with Shu. Plus any scrimmage that I can latch onto during the week. Plus working out a few times with my dad. Oh, and sometimes I do stick time by myself, just to get on the ice.

Hockey is in my soul. I inherited my soul from Dad. He made it to the American Hockey League, which is the main development league for the National Hockey League, which is the premier hockey league in the world. He says that when he was twenty-three years old and briefly the best player on his team, the NHL was so close he could taste it. Then he made it up there--to the NHL!--but got sent back down in three weeks. All together he stayed in the AHL for four years, all in Des Moines, Iowa. That's where I was born, a million miles from here.

We sprint up and down the steps for fifteen minutes, then trudge up and down for another fifteen. Afterward--soaking wet--I lie on the grass to rest by the steps. Sinbad sniffs at me.

"Enough relaxing!" Dad says, but I've only been lying there for maybe one minute!

"Seriously? I just laid down!" He looks at me with zero sympathy. That's the way it is with hockey. Nobody has any sympathy for you, not one person.

We do push-ups--I can do thirty-three perfect ones and a few more half-baked ones. But I'm somehow getting my energy back. Then we rest for thirty seconds and do clap push-ups--I do ten. Usually I only do eight, so I'm suddenly thinking I'm pretty beast.

Squats, several exercises with a ten-pound medicine ball. Frog jumps, one-legged slaloms, scissors, double Dutch. Five hundred crunches. I'm an animal!

We finish with stretching. I'm a flexible kid, but for some reason I hate stretching. I just go through the motions.

Then Dad takes a break with his phone while I walk off with Sinbad. There's hardly anyone in the park. Dad lets me go off by myself with Sinbad 'cause my dog's really muscular and really protective. Dobermans stick to you like superglue. Otherwise I'm not allowed to be out alone. Dad's a cop, so he's seen a lot of bad stuff--he knows what can happen to a kid on his own, even in Canyon Country. Sinbad and Dad are my only family. I mean, I have an aunt and my grandparents, but I don't have a mom or sisters and brothers and cousins. My mom died when I was two. I can't remember her at all, but Dad says I was so close to her that for my first year nobody else could even hold me. Then my dad was married for eight years to another woman, but it didn't work out for a bunch of reasons that I'll get into at some point. One reason was hockey--when a kid plays travel hockey, it takes up a lot of space in your life. Some people don't like that.

When I started playing, it was like Dad was living through me, but not in a bad way. It was more like him and me got so bonded he was out there with me on the ice during games. Even though I play defense, I got the winning goal in one playoff game, and later in the car he was tearing up about it. Getting that goal was pretty much the best moment of my life. Everybody was jumping all over me and pounding my helmet so that my brain was ringing and I was in a total other, like, awareness plane. When I told Dad about that later, his eyes got a faraway look, and he said, "Yeahhhhhhhh . . ."

Excerpted from Checked by Cynthia Kadohata
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

“Kadohata’s slapshot is the heart-swelling narrative of a father and son…Truly powerful.” —Jason Reynolds
“A deeply poignant story about a boy sorting out his priorities.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A vivid, memorable portrayal of a boy within his family, his sport, and his gradually broadening world.” —Booklist (starred review)

From Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata comes a brilliantly-realized novel about a hockey player who must discover who he is without the sport that defines him.

Hockey is Conor’s life. His whole life. He’ll say it himself, he’s a hockey beast. It’s his dad’s whole life too—and Conor is sure that’s why his stepmom, Jenny, left. There are very few things Conor and his dad love more than the game, and one of those things is their Doberman, Sinbad. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, Conor chooses to put his hockey lessons and practices on hold so they can pay for Sinbad’s chemotherapy.

But without hockey to distract him, Conor begins to notice more. Like his dad’s crying bouts, and his friend’s difficult family life. And then Conor notices one more thing: Without hockey, the one thing that makes him feel special, is he really special at all?

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