"Hut! Hut! Go long, Tiki!"
Tiki and Ronde's twelfth summer is winding down -- the nights are getting shorter and the evenings cooler. That means two things: The first day of junior high is just a few days away, and it's almost the start of football season at last. With two championships and an 8-2 season last year, Tiki and Ronde are ready to graduate from the Peewee League and hit the field as starting players for the Hidden Valley Eagles.
But junior high is a lot bigger than elementary school. The competition for starting spots is stiff, and seniority rules. If Tiki and Ronde make it past tryouts and cuts, will they get the chance to play, or will they have to spend the season watching from the bench with the other seventh graders?
Inspired by the childhood of NFL superstars Tiki and Ronde Barber, Kickoff! is a story of teamwork, perseverance, and what it takes to be a champion.
Persistence, patience and teamwork are the themes of this novel based on the boyhoods of the Barber twins (Teammates). The future NFL stars begin middle school with considerable trepidation: for the first time, they will be in separate classes, and they are among the scrawniest students trying out for the football team. (On the first day of practice, in one of the narrative's occasional clich d exchanges, a tough-talking older player taunts them, "You're dead meat, Wimpy.... We eat seventh graders for lunch.") The twins are devastated to learn that they've only made third string ("They were sick to their stomachs, and had a bitter taste in their mouths a taste even Mom's chicken soup couldn't cure"). But unsurprisingly, Tiki and Ronde get field time during a game against their toughest rivals. Even as the game races to an expected outcome, the swift action delivers genuine tension. Lending noble, if sometimes stiffly delivered, moral dimensions to the story are the twins' mother, who spearheads a campaign to keep a factory out of their neighborhood; an older player; teachers; and the coach. All drive home variations on the message, "You'll both get stronger if you work as a team.... In class, and in football, too." Ages 8-12.
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