A JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD GOLD STANDARD SELECTION
"A touching exploration of friendship, teamwork, and Mamba Mentality."
Together neighbors and friends Isaac and Marco navigate the challenges of middle school, divorced parents, and basketball tryouts.
Brand-new sixth graders Isaac Castillo and Marco Honeyman are more like family than friends. Despite their apparent differences—Isaac’s a talented basketball player who struggles academically, while Marco’s a supershort straight-A student who prefers chess to contact sports—they have been inseparable besties since kindergarten. Isaac knows how to talk Marco through his panic attacks and discussions of his absent father, and Marco calmly listens to Isaac’s fears about his father’s not-so-secret alcohol abuse. After a misunderstanding leads Isaac’s former teammates to convince Marco he could be their middle school basketball team’s next Muggsy Bogues (the smallest player in NBA history), Marco and Isaac dedicate themselves to getting him a spot on the team, even though he’s never played before. The dual point-of-view story repudiates toxic masculinity and encourages collaboration and generosity. The quick-moving plot also spotlights the various ways preteens and their parents fall short of their goals only to end up stronger because of their resilience and grit. Both protagonists are Latinx: Marco is Jewish and Mexican, and Marco is Mexican American. Cisneros’ touching sophomore novel is an ideal pick for sports fans and will reel in reluctant readers. (starred review)
"Highly recommended for school and public libraries"
Marco Honeyman and Isaac Castillo are next-door neighbors and best friends, despite their apparent differences: Jewish-Mexican Marco is small and book-smart, while Isaac, who is also Latinx, is a gifted and hard-working basketball player who struggles to manage his homework. Part of Marco and Isaac’s bond is their desire for approval from their divorced parents. Isaac hopes his mom won’t give up on him the way she gave up on his dad because of his drinking, and Marco wishes his dad would come back and be proud of him. When they enter middle school, Marco and Isaac stand by each other, despite different classes and friend groups. When Marco decides to try out for the baseketball team to impress his father (despite never playing before), Isaac coaches him. The boys’ bond of friendship is the core of the story; they have honest conversations, admire each other’s good qualities, and support each other through anxiety attacks and family problems. After a tough tournament game, Isaac concludes, “Life is like a game of basketball...it pretty much comes down to the hustle we put in.”
VERDICT At every turn, Isaac and Marco support each other in this affirming story of basketball, middle school, friendship, and family, and choosing kindness and determination over easy cowardice or cruelty. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.–-Jenny Arch (starred review)
"Cisneros has once again written an inspiring story that will have an immense emotional effect on all who read it."
In this novel told through the alternating points of view of both protagonists, readers will closely follow the struggles and insecurities both characters experience while also observing a beautiful and endearing friendship. Cisneros has once again written an inspiring story that will have an immense emotional effect on all who read it.
Discussion Questions &Extension Activities