A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this story is written by pro-player and Hall of Famer, Cal Ripkin, Jr. and is the first in a new series about a Little League team. This book focuses on taming a temper, and while there is no real violence, the main character throws his glove and bat (hitting a friend once) and stomps around when he gets angry. Another character is a bully, though he only uses verbal insults. There's a lot of baseball lingo, and parents may want to make sure kids understand what it means to be "3-for-3 at the plate" or "laying down a drag bunt." Readers will get messages about good sportsmanship, remorse and forgiveness, personal responsibility, compassion, judging, and friendship -- though some parents may be troubled by the lack of female characters. Connor puts his sister Melissa in the category of "fifteen-year-old girls" who like to flirt, shop, and buy cheap earrings, and readers never get to know her more than that.
What's the story?
Connor is the best player on his Little League team, and he is also a nice guy who enjoys playing with his team and practicing skills. But recently, Connor has been getting way too upset whenever he makes a mistake. He tosses his glove, stomps the dirt, and throws the bat -- even hitting his friend. After one too many outbursts, Coach Hammond suspends Connor from playing for a while until he can pull himself together. That's not the only problem Connor has to deal with: Not only is his dad out of work, but a school newspaper reporter is also threatening to put video of Connor's tantrums online. Can he control his anger, face his worries, and apologize to his teammates before the championship game?
Is it any good?
HOTHEAD is a fairly predictable and simple baseball story filled with lessons about character. There is enough play-by-play action to keep baseball fans turning pages, and Connor's personal drama will attract other young readers. The writing is clunky and filled with cliches, and the dialogue between kids often seems too mature for their ages. Also, some readers may notice that Connor never actually says the words, "I am sorry" to his best friend or teammates after letting them down and even inflicting injury, which may seem out of step with the moralistic tone of the book. But ultimately readers will know that he has learned to control himself thanks to his good heart and the support of the kind people around him.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of professional athletes in kids' lives. Do you think pro athletes have a responsibility to be good role models? Do you think their behavior --good or bad -- influences kids?
Talk about the Disney website that promotes the book, which includes stickers to download, an excerpt to read -- and even baseball tips from Cal Ripken Jr. Why do you think Disney decided to publicize the book this way?
Does the site make you want to buy the book -- or spend money for other products?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.