Book: Hothead

Author: Cal Ripken Jr., with Kevin Cowherd

Cover Illustrator: Robert Papp

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, republished 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1423140030

ISBN-10: 1423140036

Related website(s): (publisher)

Language level: 2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: General youth fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Ripken, Cal Jr., with Cowherd, Kevin.  Hothead (Published in 2011 by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group LLC, 114 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY  10011; republished in 2012 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  Twelve year old Connor Sullivan, who lives with his father Bill, mother Karen, and fifteen year old sister Brianna in Baltimore, MD, is a seventh grader at York Middle School and an All-Star shortstop and cleanup hitter on his Babe Ruth team, the Orioles, under coach Ray Hammond.  However, things aren’t good at home. His dad, a used car salesman, has been laid off and is having trouble finding a new job, so his mom, a nurse, is having to work a lot of overtime at the hospital just to make ends meet. 

     Connor feels the pressure and develops a big problem with his temper on the field.  When he strikes out or makes an error, he’s a walking Mt. Vesuvius, slamming batting helmets and throwing gloves. His teammates are starting to avoid him, even his best friend Jordy Marsh.  Can Connor clean up his act in time to regain his teammates’ trust and help the Orioles win the championship against the best team in the league?  Or will his coach kick him off the team?  And what happens when Connor is beaned by opposing pitcher Billy Burrell?  Hothead is either Book 6 or Book 7 of “Cal Ripken Jr.’s All Stars” series.  Anyone who followed Major League Baseball in the 1980s and 90s will recognize the name of Cal Ripken Jr. as a shortstop and third baseman with the Baltimore Orioles for his entire career (1981-2001). Kevin Cowher is a sports writer with the Baltimore Sun.

     Besides doing a great job of describing the baseball scenes, this book is an excellent story for young people about the importance of learning how to manage anger properly by highlighting the consequences of acting without thinking.  Some common euphemisms (e.g., “gee”) and childish slang terms (e.g., “pain in the butt”) appear, but there is no cursing or swearing.   Also, some parents may think that age twelve is a bit young for Connor to go out with Melissa, even though he declares, “Not that this was a date or anything.  Because it definitely wasn’t.  Uh-uh.  No way.”  However, the pace should easily keep up the interest of a pre-teen, so it would be good for a reluctant reader, especially one who likes baseball.  One reviewer (I assume a kid) said, “BAD BOOK TOO PREDICTABLE. Worst book I have ever read don’t read it. Don’t spend it time on it it’s boring,” but most others praised it for not only its moral but also its readability. 

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