“Dad, I don’t want to play football or baseball,” I blurted out. “Oh, what do you want to play?” he asked. “Basketball? I hope its not soccer. That’s not even a real American sport.” “Stickball,” I said. “Say what?” Dad replied. He almost spit out a mouth full of coffee. “Stickball. Toli.” “You mean running around in your shorts behind the community center on Saturdays? That’s not a real sport.” “Actually it is a real sport, and I’m talking about playing on a team that will compete at Choctaw Fair next summer.” Dad slammed his fist down on the table. The plates and glasses shook. I almost jumped out of my seat. Sixteen year old Mississippi Choctaw Randy Cheska lived most of his young life in the shadow of his older football-hero brother, Jack. After Jack is tragically killed while serving in Iraq, Randy's father puts even more pressure on Randy to excel in football. Randy has absolutely no desire or skills to play high school sports but when he discovers that he's good and stickball and loves the game, Randy jumps at the chance to play when its offered. His father considers the sport a relic of the Choctaw past when it was known as the Little Brother of War and used to settle disputes between communities. For Randy, stick ball provides him with a new sense of self-worth and a new direction in life.

"There is strength in the depiction of a young man finding his way by looking to his roots, and Robinson powerfully captures the exhilaration of knowing exactly where one belongs."

Booklist September 2013

 “The tension between respecting Choctaw tradition and embracing change are at the heart of Robinson's strong addition to the PathFinders series about Native American teens, written by Native authors. Written at a fourth-grade reading level, the story captures the believable friction in Randy's family and introduces a bit of American culture that will be new to many readers.”

Publisher Weekly August 2013

“A traditional game provides a way for a Mississippi Choctaw teen to step out of the shadows of his sports-hero older brother and dad. This worthy tale is definitely agenda-driven, but the cultural and historical information is laid onto the story with a light hand.” (Fiction. 10-13)

Kirkus Reviews June 2013

Gary Robinson
Lexile Level: 
Fry Reading Level: 
Page Count: 
Publication Year: 
7th Generation Native Voices Books