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Fifth grader Riley Walters is terrible at sports. But he keeps trying, in order to please his sports hero of a dad. In the past, he attempted soccer and basketball, got frustrated with his lack of talent and quit. His father began to lecture him on the tribulations of quitters. This year, Riley decides to make an effort with baseball. League tryouts are approaching, and Riley desperately wants his dad’s approval, so he practices every chance he gets. However, it doesn’t seem to be helping.

One afternoon, Riley’s friend Kaylee comes over to help him with batting. One missed pitch hits a tree and bounces into the road. Riley runs after it, fully intending to stop at the curb. However, an approaching car swerves to miss him and smashes into a tree. The driver survives the wreck without a scratch, but her champion show dog has to be rushed to the vet.

Champ survives but ends up losing one of his front legs. Fighting guilt over the accident, Riley goes to visit the dog. The owner decides that Champ is worthless now and wants to put him to sleep. However, Riley won’t stand for it and offers to take the canine home.

Everyone in the Walters family has a bit of trouble adapting. Champ barks continuously when Riley is at school and then picks up a few bad habits, such as herding all their shoes into the living room and pulling the sheets off the beds. Mr. Douglas, the retired and lonely next-door neighbor, offers his opinion that Champ is bored. He suggests that Riley and Champ start training for an agilities competition, where an owner and dog team race through various obstacles. Riley thinks it’s ridiculous, as a three-legged dog would never win a race, but Mr. Douglas tells him that winning isn’t the point.

The idea works. Champ is happier and stops causing trouble, and Riley enjoys building the obstacles with Mr. Douglas and training with Champ. Everyone is upbeat and impressed, except Riley’s dad. He thinks it’s a waste of time and that Riley should be practicing baseball instead. When word gets out that a three-legged dog is training for the agility contest, Champ’s first owner shows up --- and wants him back!

Marcia Thornton Jones has written and co-written over 120 books, and her unbelievable talent shines through each page of her new story. Heartwarming and exciting, readers will devour the pages to find out what happens next with likable and relatable Riley and his energetic, tail-wagging new friend. Jones craftily slips a few important life lessons into her entertaining story, such as acceptance, struggling for goals and standing up for what’s right. Mr. Douglas puts it well when he says, “The way to tackle a big problem is to start with simple steps.” CHAMP is an amazing story and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on October 1, 2007

by Marcia Thornton Jones

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2007
  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 0439793998
  • ISBN-13: 9780439793995