"Seventh-grade basketball started out all wrong, and it only got worse.
"'He wants us to try out?' Chris asked.
"'Unbelievable,' I muttered, staring at the sign-up sheet on our new coach's office door.
"Try out for our own team?
"Chris, the rest of the guys, and I had been playing together since Cotter Elementary. We were undefeated in sixth grade (if you didn't count our five losses, which I didn't because the refs had been out to get us), and we'd been shooting hoops at Sunset Park all summer to stay on top of our game.
"'Next Wednesday afternoon,' Chris said, then pointed at the word as he read it. 'Tryouts.'"
As Owen says, things only get worse (at least for him). After making a fool of himself trying to educate the new coach as to why they shouldn't have to try out, the coach spots Owen's fraternal-twin brother Russell walking down the hallway (Russell's the tallest kid in their grade.), and insists that Russell try out for the team, too. Russell is the "mathlete" in the book's title, the leader of the school's Masters of the Mind team, and Owen figures his klutzy brother should stick to geekdom and leave the basketball playing to him. Russell at first seems agreeable to the notion that he'll go through the motions, fail to make the team, and return to more academic pursuits. But then their father takes him out to equip him for playing:
"'I don't need Nikes,' I said, but no one was listening.
"Whenever I felt frustrated or nervous, I calmed down by working my way through the periodic table of elements.
"Beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen.
"I glanced around the store, looking for some kind of a knockoff brand, but Go Time seemed to sell only the big names.
"I watched Dad listening to the salesman, as if the shoes I wore for a single afternoon really mattered. And that's when I knew that the tryout situation was officially out of control.
"All I wanted to do was go home and be the Russell Evans I'd been for my entire life.
"Oxygen, fluorine, neon, sodium.
"I didn't want all the extra complications.
"Magnesium, aluminum, silicon.
"I didn't want a special outfit for not making the team. But as I took a deep breath, getting ready to tell Dad how I felt, I saw it in the salesman's hand.
"It was dark blue, with an even darker sole. The pattern looked like a drafting blueprint, and the silver swoosh stitched on the side practically screamed 'speed.'
"He put the shoe in my hand so I could see if I liked it, but he was too late.
"I was already in love.
"And that was only the beginning."
Owen is hell-bound to become a bona fide jerk when Russell actually makes the team and then begins stealing some of Owen's thunder. Meanwhile, Russell's friends on the Masters of the Mind team are appalled that their leader has gone to the dark side. Amidst all of this turmoil, Russell is both expanding his horizons as well as coming to the realization that all of his academic prowess has never yielded the tiniest fraction of respect and acclaim that comes from a good pair of shoes and making a few jump shots.
While there is resolution to the rift created by Owen's petulance, the seasons -- both for the basketball team and for the Masters of the Mind team -- are left in progress, with the action set to resume in the Fall '13 release of DOUBLE DRIBBLE, the second book in this series.
Fun and filled with some pretty interesting issues, there are a load of 10-12 year olds for whom this series will be a slam dunk.
Ages 11-14 208 pages 978-1-59990-915-8