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Lupica, Mike (author).
Sept. 2014. 304p. Philomel, hardcover, $17.99 (9780399256073). Grades 5-8.
First published September 1, 2014 (Booklist).
Usually a football book is about whether or not the kid makes the team—and the problems that follow. So it’s refreshing that those issues are only a part of 12-year-old Charlie Gains’ story. See, Charlie is known as the Brain, because he is a football stats genius. He understands which players should be playing where and why. This makes him great at fantasy football; then reality comes center stage. His best friend, Anna, is the granddaughter of Joe Warren, the man who has brought NFL football back to Los Angeles. But the team, the Bulldogs, haven’t done much, and Joe’s son, the GM, is being blamed. Enter Charlie, who loves the team and soon comes to love Joe Warren as the father and grandfather he never had. Charlie shares his massive football knowledge with Joe, and soon players are being recruited at Charlie’s suggestion. Couple this with the fact Anna has turned Charlie into something of a podcast celebrity, and suddenly Charlie is catnip for the media. That’s great until things start to go wrong. There’s a lot of football here: pro and fantasy teams and Charlie’s own Pop Warner career. Veteran sportswriter Lupica handles it all very well. However, it’s the heart and depth he adds to the story depicting Charlie’s relationships with a sterling cast of characters that make this unique. This Moneyball story with kids is on the money. Ilene Cooper
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