Friday, December 14, 2007

No Place Like Hoops for the Holidays: Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica

Mike Lupica, best-selling author of the blockbuster sports novels Heat and Travel Team, takes a break from his trademark game-play story lines in this family-centered novel which fittingly ends under the giant Rockefeller Center tree on Christmas Day.

Molly Parker is still grieving the death by cancer of her mother Jen and homesick for their life together in London. Living with her mom's oldest friend's family in Boston, Molly has a best friend in classmate Sam, and as she adapts to her new situation, Sam is the only person to whom she confides that Boston Celtic mega-star Josh Cameron is her biological father. Even Josh does not know Molly is her daughter because Jen broke off with him when they were college students and never returned from a year abroad in England.

Armed with personal anecdotes and her mother's letters written as she was dying, Molly uses Sam's help to sneak into Josh Cameron's SUV and grab an opportunity to reveal her story in private. Hurt by Josh's assumption that she is shaking him down for money, Molly hangs tough in her efforts to convince him of the truth of her story. Gradually he takes an interest in her and invites her to practice sessions, games, and visits at his apartment where she gains an ally in his sympathetic housekeeper Mattie, who sees a resemblance in her looks and in her natural skill at basketball.

But when Molly misunderstands a hard-edged conversation between Josh and his money-minded agent Bobby, who advises Josh to keep Molly hidden in boarding school until his lucrative career is over, Molly feels that there will never be any love or hope of a real relationship with Josh as her father.

To Josh Molly pretends to be happy about her foster family's upcoming move to Los Angeles, but a sudden resolve to give her father one last chance takes her to New York City on Christmas Day, hoping that Josh will remember his meeting with her mother at Rockefeller Center thirteen years earlier. As she waits there, surrounded by skaters and celebrating families, she knows that it's Josh Cameron's last shot in this game.

With a strong sense of the Boston setting and details of big-time NBA play, Miracle on 49th Street makes a satisfying holiday read for sports fans as well as readers who crave a story of family love lost and found.

A New York Daily News columnist, Lupica is a real pro in the arena of sports fiction for middle readers. His realistic game-play action, strong characterization, and natural dialogue make his books first choice for the young sports fans on anyone's Christmas list.

In addition to Travel Team, and its equally engaging sequel Summer Ball, (reviewed here November 17), Lupica's first book in his Comeback Kids series is another game action packed basketball novel, Hot Hand: Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids

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