Reviewed by Ben Hartman (age 11) for Reader Views (7/09)
“Pop” by Gordon Korman is a great, realistic, fiction book that will have you hooked in the first five pages. One of the main characters, Marcus Jordan, moves to a new town during the summer and spends his time alone in ThreeAlarmPark practicing his football passes to get ready for tryouts. His summer suddenly becomes exciting when a middle-aged man jumps out from behind a statue and intercepts Marcus’s football pass. The man has a great arm and launches the ball out of the park and across the street. From that day on, Charlie, the middle-aged man, comes to the park almost every day to play football with Marcus.
During the summer, in addition to football, Charlie and Marcus play lots of tricks and pranks on the K.O. Pest Control owner. One of the tricks they play is sugaring the entire store. The next day, there are bugs swarming everywhere around and in the store – not a good thing for a Pest Control company! Although Marcus is having fun, he starts to wonder why this middle-aged man is spending time playing pranks and football with him, and why he calls him ‘Mac’ instead of Marcus. He looks up Charlie on the internet and is amazed to find out that Charlie was one of the best pro-football players in NFL history. His nickname is “The King of Pop.” As the relationship between Marcus and Charlie gets closer and closer, Marcus also figures out the secret that Charlie’s family is desperate to hide.
At tryouts, Marcus makes the Raiders football team thanks to Charlie’s coaching. The Raiders are working on their second perfect season. Troy, their quarterback, and also Charlie’s son, doesn’t like the new kid, Marcus, for two reasons. First, Marcus is also a quarterback, and might threaten his starting position on the team. Second, Troy doesn’t like the relationship between Marcus and his father, Charlie, and is afraid Marcus will learn the secret he is trying to keep. As the football season get underway, Troy starts to have more trouble with his Dad, Charlie, and more trouble concentrating on playing quarterback. Can Marcus figure out how to help the team and how to help Troy with his Dad?
This book was so good, I would rate it 4 ½ out of five stars. “Pop” by Gordon Korman is appropriate for kids 10 or 11 and up. There was lots of sports action in this book, but it was also about relationships and how they impact your life – Marcus and Charlie, Troy and Marcus, Troy and Charlie, plus a lot more. Marcus and Troy both think they know what is best for the team and Charlie. But in the end, who will win?