It’s hard being the son of a famous former football player, especially when you have neither the talent nor the inclination to participate in any kind of sports yourself. 12-year old Kevin Pugh is a dedicated couch potato who prefers spending time perfecting his TV computer football game to actually pursuing any physical activity. He is a puzzlement to his father, and is overshadowed by his sympathetic but soccer-playing sister. But his life changes completely when his dog, Cromwell, who usually joins Kevin in his couch potato life-style, witnesses some dog agility trials on TV, and suddenly becomes determined to develop a talent of his own, racing around the yard and jumping over and through obstacles. Kevin approaches his family about enrolling the dog in agility training, and when they nix the idea on the basis that it’s not a real sport, Kevin persists with the support of a friend, who pays for the training. As Kevin becomes more involved in training his dog, he finds his own life changing, as he loses weight, increases his physical agility, and develops a competitive approach to the training. He keeps his new-found interest a secret from his family, who barely notice the changes, until Cromwell has a surprise win in their first competition, and qualifies for the championship trials. In the end, Kevin’s abilities are revealed, and he and Cromwell triumph over more than just the agility course. Kevin and Cromwell are likeable, and supporting characters such as his friend Zach, his sister Izzy, and the eccentric dog trainer, Elka, are interesting and good foils. There are no surprises in the plot, but the story is handled with abundant humor, the ending is satisfying, and readers will appreciate the “underdog rising” theme, and root for both Kevin and Cromwell. 256 pages Ages 9-13
Recommended by Linda Lucke, Librarian.