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Middle Grade Book Review – One Last Shot


Written by John David Anderson

(Walden Pond Press; $16.99, Ages 8-12)


One Last Shot cover



In John David Anderson’s One Last Shot, twelve-year-old Malcolm Greeley navigates life carefully. School is endured, and his home life is a minefield where he painstakingly interprets what’s said—and what’s not said—to keep the peace between his contentious parents. He’s sure that if he can just do everything right, then things between his mom and dad will get better, that they have to.

Malcolm doesn’t realize he needs a friend until Lex’s miniature golf ball and her comical call of “Five!” lands at his feet. With an unwanted push from his wacky golf coach, Malcolm soon finds a something in Lex he’s been sorely missing. While his steadfast mother accepts and understands him, Malcolm is unsettled around his father, an award-winning jock of many sports, who pushed Malcolm into Little League. When Malcolm is given an out, he takes it, only to be subtly pressured into competition mini golf. With Dad, it’s all about winning, but Malcolm’s not wired that way no matter how he tries. He’s a natural at putting, yet dreads the competitive aspect. The voices in his head add to the stress of executing each shot perfectly.

Though I don’t typically gravitate stories centered around competitive sports, I picked up One Last Shot because I’m a fan of Anderson’s other books Granted and Posted (also middle grade). One Last Shot’s a winner with its fully developed, imperfect characters. I appreciated the creative manner in which the story unfolds; the structure adds interest. Each of the eighteen chapters opens with the description of a mini golf hole and closes with how Malcolm scored on that hole. Sandwiched between, we’re shown Malcolm’s life in flashback scenes.

This would be an ideal read for a kid with parents in the bitter pre-divorce stage since Malcolm comes to understand his parents’ troubles are not about him and cannot be fixed by him. Sometimes, parents need to split up for their own good—an upsetting time that’s hard to live through, but, hopefully, better in the long run.

Click here to read a sample.


•Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt (, Write for Success (, @ChristineVZ and @WFSediting,

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tale-of-two-sedersA Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra Portnoy
Illustrations by Valeria Cis
($17.95, hardcover, $7.95 paperback, ages 5 to 9)
Splitting the two nights of Passover between her parents’ two houses after their divorce isn’t easy, but the main character in this poignant picture book finds something positive about the experience. Over the course of three years, she attends six seders and watches as her mom and dad move on with their lives in different ways. Author Mindy Avra Portnoy uses the seders to convey the little girl’s feelings as she adjusts to new people and new traditions. I liked Portnoy’s use of charoset (a varying mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine representing the mortar used by Jewish slaves when building cities for the Egyptian Pharaoh) at her dad’s apartment, her mom’s home and at the synagogue as a way to show that families also vary in composition. The girl’s mom explains: Some are sweeter than others. But each one is tasty in its own way. The end pages contain four charoset recipes and a handy glossary.

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