This sports drama by Walter Dean Myers is published by Penguin Group and is written for kids ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Few other black kids attend Latimer High, but Greg "Slam" Harris knows he can prove himself on the basketball court at his new school. The trouble is, the principal and teachers are getting on his case about his grades, and the coach won't start him because he doesn't like his attitude. Grades are the least of Slam's concerns, though; he's trying to woo Mtisha, help a friend who is dealing drugs and most of all, get the attention of NBA scouts. As Slam tries to make sense of his life, the assistant coach (Goldy) helps him realize that he must manage his behavior and attitude both on and off the court if he wants to succeed.
Mtisha's mom and Slam's grandmother know each other because both attend Pilgrim Baptist. Goldy says that if you get the chance to do what you love in life, that's a special gift from God.
Authority roles Slam's mom shows a lot of positive concern for her son and worries about his poor grades; she's the responsible, if not dominant, parent. Slam's dad drinks a lot when he's out of work, and he feels his manhood is being challenged when his wife encourages Slam to let another man tutor him. Slam's coach, principal and teachers give him a hard time, often because he's quick to fight back. Goldy frequently offers fatherly advice, urging Slam to demonstrate good character and think about his future by being "in the game" even off the court.
Other Belief Systems
The word p---ed appears twice.
Slam makes out with a girl he's just met. He later admits he's thinking about having sex with Mtisha and hopes she's thinking about it, too. (In the end, we get the impression that she is.) Slam worries about "safe" sex and unexpected pregnancy. He briefly mentions someone who may have been "raped by other dudes" in prison. He also notes that a guy at a party is gay but no one messes with him because he's on the football team.
Coretta Scott King Award, 1997; ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 1997; and more.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Slam isn't honest with Mtisha when she asks him about his fling with another girl. Is honesty important in a relationship? Why?
- Discussion topics If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics: Slam isn't honest with Mtisha when she asks him about his fling with another girl. Is honesty important in a relationship? Why? If you saw one of your friends starting to travel a dangerous path in life, how would you try to help that person?
- Slam felt that grades weren't important as long as he could play ball well enough to get a scholarship. How much do you think your grades now will shape your future?
- How important are male role models in a boy's life? Who were the men in Slam's life, and what kind of examples did they set for him?
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