The best books featuring boys who crave success

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been a fan of stories where the underdog makes good due to their own strength and determination. Although my book picks are all connected to sports I don’t happen to participate in, I feel the power of choosing the life you want by working hard encompasses all fields whether it be learning to sing or dance or becoming an expert in science, chess, juggling, or whatever one’s passion might be. For me, I guess it would be writing and not giving up even when it sometimes feels like playing the lottery each time one of my manuscripts is sent into cyberspace.


I wrote...

Roller Boy

By Marcia Strykowski,

Book cover of Roller Boy

What is my book about?

After his baseball dreams fall through, Mateo’s mood sinks low. What can he be good at? What will take him from that skinny little kid with the big hair to someone who matters? Mateo struggles to find his true purpose while dodging bullies, avoiding gluten, and falling for Roller City’s star skater. In doing so, he discovers he’s a pretty good skater himself. But still, roller-skating? What if his buddies find out he’s whirling around in girly skates? Anybody halfway to cool would be hanging at a skate park, on boards or blades.

Mateo keeps his sense of humor and channels his innermost strength into an incredible ride on roller skates that just might take him all the way to regionals.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time

Marcia Strykowski Why did I love this book?

Stanford isn’t a happy camper when, because of a failing grade in English, he has to go to summer school instead of basketball camp. Used to being a star basketball player, he’s embarrassed by this new turn of events. Millicent Min as his tutor is the last straw. I love how the plot and various situations, along with his parents’ bickering and his grandmother entering a nursing home, feel real and something today’s kids can relate to. And also how, despite Stanford’s disappointments, he puts forth his best efforts all the while he tries to manage his problems. There’s plenty of humor, too.

By Lisa Yee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Stanford Wong is in big trouble--or as he would spell it, "trubble"--in this laugh-out-loud companion to the award-winning MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS and this season's HC, EMILY EBERS.

Stanford Wong is having a bad summer. If he flunks his summer-school English class, he won't pass sixth grade. If that happens, he won't start on the A-team. If *that* happens, his friends will abandon him and Emily Ebers won't like him anymore. And if THAT happens, his life will be over. Soon his parents are fighting, his grandmother Yin-Yin hates her new nursing home, he's being "tutored" by the world's biggest…


Book cover of One Last Shot

Marcia Strykowski Why did I love this book?

I love how Malcolm, a kid who doesn’t like sports despite his athletic dad’s enthusiastic encouragement, finally finds a place to call his own in mini-golf. Malcolm has always felt like a loser but once he signs up for lessons and meets some friends, he slowly improves, in his game and in his opinion of himself. Unfortunately, Malcolm also carries the weight of feeling it’s up to him to keep his parents’ troubled marriage together. With tournaments and family problems mounting high, this is an exciting read. The eighteen chapters, set up like holes on a golf course, are a fun addition.

By John David Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Last Shot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The beloved author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted returns with a humorous and heartwarming story of family, friendship, and miniature golf.

For as long as he can remember, Malcolm has never felt like he was good enough. Not for his parents, who have always seemed at odds with each other, with Malcolm caught in between. And especially not for his dad, whose competitive drive and love for sports Malcolm has never shared.

That is, until Malcolm discovers miniature golf, the one sport he actually enjoys. Maybe it’s the way in which every hole is a puzzle to be…


Book cover of Ten Thousand Tries

Marcia Strykowski Why did I love this book?

Golden Maroni is a well-drawn main character who dreams of success on the soccer field. At the same time, he tries to take care of those he loves in the best way he knows how. If he works hard and becomes a great soccer player, then maybe his dad can recover from ALS, and maybe his best friend won’t move away. There are several heavy topics in this book, but they are done with skill and sensitivity. I love the ten thousand hours theme of working towards your goals, but also the poignant truth that not all goals can be achieved by this method.

By Amy Makechnie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ten Thousand Tries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A middle school soccer whiz’s determination to keep things from changing is tested when his father’s ALS symptoms worsen in this “heart-tugging and uplifting” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) story about growing up and facing loss, perfect for fans of Shouting at the Rain.

Twelve-year-old Golden Maroni is determined to channel his hero, soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and become captain of his soccer team and master of his eighth grade universe…especially since his home universe is spiraling out of orbit. Off the field, Golden’s dad, once a pro soccer player himself, is now battling ALS, a disease that attacks his muscles,…


Book cover of Sidetracked

Marcia Strykowski Why did I love this book?

Joseph Friedman of Sidetracked is yet another likable character who feels he is terrible at everything, including all sports. Having ADD doesn’t help. But when he’s encouraged to join his school track team, he finds he enjoys trying to beat his own personal best even if he still isn’t very good. I especially enjoyed how Joseph finds new meaning in his life and a new friend, Heather, who can even stand up to the school bully. She’s a wonderful help to Joseph and boosts his confidence. Together they form a great team.

By Diana Harmon Asher,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sidetracked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ABA Indies Introduce Book
ALA Notable Book

"This is a splendid novel that I read in one sitting. . . . You will cheer when this kid embraces 'Do your best' and shows it to be a ringing call to nothing less than Triumph." -Gary D. Schmidt, Printz Honor winner and two-time Newbery Honor winner "Diana Harmon Asher tells an entertaining story about a boy picking his way through the potholes and pitfalls of puberty, with a little help from his friends." -Richard Peck, Newbery Medal winner
"Just read it! Diana Harmon Asher has written a witty, observant, and sensitive…


Book cover of Power Forward

Marcia Strykowski Why did I love this book?

Zayd is a couple of years younger (4th grade) than the main characters of my other book picks, but again, he is a boy seeking fame and glory through sports. In particular, I enjoy his voice and learning about the Pakastani (Muslim) culture of his interesting family. The frustrating pull between basketball and playing the violin sets up several intriguing situations. This is a fun story that turns out to be the first book in a series of four.

By Hena Khan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Power Forward as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina's Voice comes the first book in an exciting new middle grade series about a fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom.

Fourth grader Zayd Saleem has some serious hoop dreams. He's not just going to be a professional basketball player. He's going to be a star. A legend. The first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. He knows this deep in his soul. It's his destiny. There are only a few small things in his way.

For starters, Zayd's only on the D-team. (D stands for developmental, but to Zayd it's…


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The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

Book cover of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

John Winn Miller

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Hunt for the Peggy C is best described as Casablanca meets Das Boot. It is about an American smuggler who struggles to rescue a Jewish family on his rusty cargo ship, outraging his mutinous crew of misfits and provoking a hair-raising chase by a brutal Nazi U-boat captain bent on revenge.

During the nerve-wracking 3,000-mile escape, Rogers falls in love with the family’s eldest daughter, Miriam, a sweet medical student with a militant streak. Everything seems hopeless when Jake is badly wounded, and Miriam must prove she’s as tough as her rhetoric to put down a mutiny by some of Jake’s fed-up crew–just as the U-boat closes in for the kill.

The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

What is this book about?

John Winn Miller's THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, a semifinalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition, captures the breathless suspense of early World War II in the North Atlantic. Captain Jake Rogers, experienced in running his tramp steamer through U-boat-infested waters to transport vital supplies and contraband to the highest bidder, takes on his most dangerous cargo yet after witnessing the oppression of Jews in Amsterdam: a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family's warmth and faith, but he can't afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor…


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