It’s simple. All Billy Raynor wants to do is shoot hoops. After all, he is one of the best shooters in his basketball league. But with his dad as his coach, and his parents newly separated, somehow everything’s become complicated. His brother Ben hardly talks anymore. His mom is always traveling on business. And his dad is always on his case about not being a team player. But when Ben’s piano recital falls on the same day as the championship game, it’s Billy who teaches his dad the meaning of being a team player.
Billy’s story contains enough play-by-play basketball action to keep sport-loving readers engaged. While Billy loves basketball, he often doesn’t pass the ball. Instead, he chooses to make the shot himself. Despite his father’s chastisement, Billy keeps trying to make a “hero shot.” Unfortunately, Billy’s teammates’ perspectives are never given, which gives a limited view of Billy’s actions. Instead of seeing it from another’s point of view, Billy thinks his basketball skills are the reason his team keeps winning.
Billy’s troubled family life and the school bully, Zeke, also play a large role in the story. On and off the basketball court, Billy often gets caught up in the moment and doesn’t think about his actions. While this leads him into trouble, Billy’s conflict is relatable because he wants to be a good teammate and a good brother. While Billy isn’t sure how to make meaningful connections with his brother, Ben, he doesn’t stop trying. In the end, Billy realizes that his brother Ben is more important than a basketball game—even if it’s the championship game. Billy’s change of focus makes the spectacular conclusion even more heartwarming.
Billy’s family life is complicated and, unfortunately, his parents are not good role models. Billy’s mother is a workaholic who is rarely home, and his father is a stubborn man who often yells at Billy in front of his teammates. Billy obviously loves basketball, but his father’s harsh attitude takes the joy out of the game. Even though Billy’s team wins the championship game, the reader is left to wonder if Billy and his father will be able to put their differences behind them.
Hot Hand is an easy-to-read story that will appeal to sports-loving fans who want an action-packed story. Through Billy’s story, readers will learn the importance of family, friendship, and teamwork. Basketball-loving fans should also read the Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream Series by Hena Khan.
- A school bully, Zeke, picks on Billy’s brother, Ben. Billy saw Zeke “pulling Ben Raynor’s hoodie over his head and spinning Ben around like they were playing blindman’s bluff. . .” Billy helps his brother get up, but “Zeke took a fast step, reaching out and grabbing him by the arm, then slid his hand down so he held Ben’s right hand . . . Billy could see from Zeke Mills’s face how hard he was squeezing one of his kid brother’s piano hands.” Billy tackles Zeke and both Zeke and Billy are suspended. The scene is described over four pages.
- While on the school playground, Zeke goes up to Billy and, “Before Billy could get a better grip on the rope handles attached to his swing, Zeke the Geek leaned down and jerked the seat up so fast that Billy went flying backwards into the dirt.”
- Again, Zeke grabs Ben’s hand “and didn’t let go until Ben yelled, the sound coming out of Billy’s brother.”
- While in town, Zeke sees Ben and he begins laughing “as he shoved Ben to the ground.” Before Ben could throw a punch, “Billy was launching himself at his own brother.” Zeke walks away.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Billy thinks that the school bully is a jerk. Later, Billy tells his mom that Zeke is a jerk.
- Billy calls Zeke a loser.
- Zeke calls Billy and Ben “two whack jobs.”