Mascot

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Mascot Book Poster Image
Tween's humor lifts story about grief, physical injury.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Because Noah has suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident and has lost the use of his legs, readers get a chance to learn about the challenges of being in a wheelchair and working in physical therapy to regain mobility. Readers learn about St. Louis, its neighborhoods and baseball stadium.

Positive Messages

Try to push yourself to get stronger, even if you feel like giving up. Friends can appear in the most unlikely places. Give people a chance to show their compassionate side. Loss can bring people together. With time and effort, you can succeed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teachers and physical therapists encourage Noah to be better than he thinks he can be. Noah's mom is a master of "conflict avoidance," but she is patient and loving, even when she loses her cool. The father figures in this book are encouraging and trustworthy.

Violence

Noah lost his dad in a car accident and explains the car crash's "bone-crunching" noises and shattered glass. A kid throws a pitch at another kid with this intention of hurting him in a baseball game. A boy breaks another boy's nose when he punches him.

Sex

Noah and Dee-Dub look at Alyssa's "boobs," which makes her uncomfortable enough to tell them to back off. Kids exchange a kiss and hold hands.

Language

"Boobs," "sucking face."

Consumerism

Major League Baseball teams, especially the Cardinals, Busch stadium, X-Men. Kids play Minecraft in detail for prolonged periods of time, admitting that the fantasy world is better than real life.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elemental series author Anthony John uses sarcastic humor to address loss, pain, and grief in Mascot. Eleven-year-old Noah Savino's life changed irrevocably when his father used a cell phone while driving. The resulting car accident killed his dad and left Noah without the use of his legs. Noah's grief feels endless to him ("Am I still going to be crying in a year? Two years? Why hasn't it gotten easier?"). And his mom's budding relationship with a neighborhood man feels very threatening. Noah's capable of sabotaging his mother, his friends, enemies, and, most poignantly, himself. The way he stares at his friend's "boobs" makes her uncomfortable, but she stands up for herself. School enemies fight and get injured. Life's challenges inspire Noah and his friend to get really lost in their Minecraft world -- enough so that the parents have to pry them away from the computer screens.

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What's the story?

In MASCOT, St. Louis native Noah Savino finds himself living life without the use of his legs. The humiliation is endless: His mom dutifully lifts him in and out of the minivan, driving him to physical therapy, where he makes very little effort to improve. His Little League baseball career is done, his friends have left him behind, and the grief he feels over the loss of his dad feels endless. Though he has built a tough defense for an 11-year-old, he can no longer pretend that his life is over. Luckily, his friends, Alyssa and the new kid, Dee-Dub, show him how much they care by helping him become stronger and more accepting of his life--as it is. 

Is it any good?

This story of a boy who lost his father in a car accident and can no longer walk shines in its empathy. Mascot is an upbeat story about a downbeat subject. Noah talks about his disability with a realistic voice that really lets readers understand his experience. He's funny. And sad. And very human. Noah and his friends get up to some schemes that get them in and out of trouble, while forcing them to look at their motives.

Mascot nearly avoids drowning in platitudes about being brave and growing up. Nearly. What starts out as a brilliantly paced and expertly voiced story diverts a bit with the addition of an adult character whose problems seem only to distract from the real story. Though the local man, Mr. Riggieri, helps Noah and his friends up their baseball skills, late in the book Noah gets involved in Mr. Riggieri's personal life, which really is none of his business. It feels like an excuse for the author to teach some lessons about parenting and bonding with someone Noah barely knows. The real bonding could have happened with Mr. Dillon, the man his mother is falling in love with -- but that would be very complicated. And at times, Mascot seems intent on keeping some of the complication of loss, and possible remarriage, at an arm's length. But all in all, this loving story of a kid coping with physical and emotional challenges is full of heart and humor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how grief and loss are dealt with in Mascot. How is Noah's grief realistic? What does he deny? Does it feel like he hides behind his sarcasm? What prompts him to face his fears?

  • Noah and Dee-Dub use video gaming as a way to feel a sense of control in their lives. When does using technology become an addiction? Do you have a media plan in place for your game and screen time? Why is it important?

  • Noah makes Alyssa uncomfortable when he stares at her body. Body changes are normal for tweens, but how do you avoid making other kids, especially girls, feel uncomfortable? What could he have done differently? Which movies or shows depict teens' bodies respectfully?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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