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Keeping plot and language simple in this accessible work for reluctant readers, Pankratz Froese hands her eighth grade protagonist a tough challenge. Knowing that her single mom is going to require her to watch her little brother, Rory, after school rather than join the girls’ basketball team, Jo forges her mother’s signature on the permission slip and works out a financial deal with Ming, a latchkey seventh grade neighbor, to watch Rory while she races to the obligatory daily practices. Thanks to her willingness to hustle both on and off the court, Jo manages to improve her defensive playing skills, impress even the demanding coach with her work ethic, and keep the stratagem going for some weeks. Displaying plenty of exciting game action, Jo’s team plays both strong and weak opponents on the way to a local championship round, but it’s the emotional cost of continually lying to her mom and teammates that stands out here, dimming her sense of achievement. Readers are likely to be as relieved as Jo is when, once her secret is (inevitably) revealed, she both faces reasonable consequences and enjoys a happy resolution to her predicament. Jo and her family seem to default to White; names cue some diversity in the Canadian cast.

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