A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: Antony John
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harper
- Publication date: September 11, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 7 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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