Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 01/01/2018 *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. - Copyright 2018 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2018 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 - Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.