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Playing the Cards You're Dealt



by
Varian Johnson

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Scholastic
Imprint
Scholastic Press
ISBN
9781338348538
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Alcohol Abuse , Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Drug Use/Abuse , Discrimination: Sexuality , Discrimination: Sexism
$19.56   $16.30
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“With a deft hand, Johnson shows us there's no such thing as "too young" when it comes to questioning big ideas like manhood, or even family.” –Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author of Look Both Ways and Stamped

Literary powerhouse and Coretta Scott King Honor- and Boston Globe / Horn Book Honor-winning author of The Parker Inheritence Varian Johnson explores themes of toxic masculinity and family legacy in this heartfelt, hopeful story of one boy discovering what it really means to be a man.

SECRETS ARE ALWAYS A GAMBLE

Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he's finally old enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant's friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, Ant only has one thing on his mind: how he'll measure up to his father's expectations at the card table.

Then Ant's best friend gets grounded, and he's forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn't exactly who he has in mind. She talks a whole lot of trash -- way more than his old partner. Plus, he's not sure that his father wants him playing with a girl. But she's smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley -- and keep his plans a secret.

Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart...

Resources for readers.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Alcohol Abuse , Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Drug Use/Abuse , Discrimination: Sexuality , Discrimination: Sexism

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

320

Trim Size

8 3/10" x 5 1/2"

Dewey

F

AR

4.1: points 8

Genre

Fic

Scholastic Reading Counts

0

JLG Release

Feb 2022

Book Genres

Realistic Fiction

Topics

Fathers and sons. Playing cards. Spades (game). Card players. Schools. Friendship. Family secrets. Family life. Black people. 

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Cover Art

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Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-Anthony "Ant" Joplin is just starting fifth grade. This year, he really wants to impress his dad by winning a local spades tournament. Last year he and his partner Jamal lost, and he has been teased about it ever since. On the first day of school, Ant and Jamal meet new student, Shirley, who is able to beat Ant and Jamal handily. This sets up a rivalry between Jamal and Shirley for Ant's friendship, as well as a burgeoning crush for Ant. Meanwhile, Ant's dad is struggling with alcoholism and a gambling addiction. Ant decides that winning the tournament with his dad watching will solve everything. Trash talk, strategy, and the rules of spades are deftly interwoven into the narrative so the uninitiated can understand how the game works. The self-aware narrator serves to explain Ant's decisions while making clear that Ant may have unrealistic expectations of the consequences of winning the tournament. Ant grows as a character; he learns what real friendship looks like, and there are nice moments where the characters tackle toxic masculinity in kid-appropriate ways. For example, Ant receives support from adults in choosing a girl for his spades partner even though he is teased, Ant's older brother is interested in things other than sports and shrugs off negativity from his peers about his hobbies, and Ant sees the value in talking about his family situation with people who care about him. The characters are well developed, and a difficult story is told with tenderness and humor. Most primary characters are Black. VERDICT A first-rate contemporary realistic fiction title that centers a Black boy and his community, and offers expansive notions of masculinity.-Kristin Lee Anderson

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-Anthony "Ant" Joplin is just starting fifth grade. This year, he really wants to impress his dad by winning a local spades tournament. Last year he and his partner Jamal lost, and he has been teased about it ever since. On the first day of school, Ant and Jamal meet new student, Shirley, who is able to beat Ant and Jamal handily. This sets up a rivalry between Jamal and Shirley for Ant's friendship, as well as a burgeoning crush for Ant. Meanwhile, Ant's dad is struggling with alcoholism and a gambling addiction. Ant decides that winning the tournament with his dad watching will solve everything. Trash talk, strategy, and the rules of spades are deftly interwoven into the narrative so the uninitiated can understand how the game works. The self-aware narrator serves to explain Ant's decisions while making clear that Ant may have unrealistic expectations of the consequences of winning the tournament. Ant grows as a character; he learns what real friendship looks like, and there are nice moments where the characters tackle toxic masculinity in kid-appropriate ways. For example, Ant receives support from adults in choosing a girl for his spades partner even though he is teased, Ant's older brother is interested in things other than sports and shrugs off negativity from his peers about his hobbies, and Ant sees the value in talking about his family situation with people who care about him. The characters are well developed, and a difficult story is told with tenderness and humor. Most primary characters are Black. VERDICT A first-rate contemporary realistic fiction title that centers a Black boy and his community, and offers expansive notions of masculinity.-Kristin Lee Anderson

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Grades 5-7
Upper Elementary & Junior High Plus
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$276.08 per Year

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