Book Review “Checked”


By Cynthia Kadohata, illustrations by Maurizio Zorat,
c.2018, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 404 pages

All Conor MacRae wants to do is  play hockey.

And hang out with his Doberman, Sinbad.

Because Conor’s dad does shiftwork, he’d gotten Sinbad for Conor for protection, and the two are as close as dog and boy could be. Sometimes, Conor feels as though he can mind-meld with his 90-pound sleek black pup, which sounds kind of weird but it makes Conor feel safer. Sinbad goes everywhere possible with Conor and his dad. Hockey might be Conor’s soul, but Sinbad is his heart.

And so, it is especially frightening when Conor, who’s taken over complete care of his dog, including financially, notices that Sinbad’s leg was swollen. He is terrified to hear the veterinarian’s diagnosis of cancer, although the disease is treatable.

But it isn’t going to be cheap. Seven thousand dollars—the cost of Sinbad’s chemo—would buy a lot of hockey sticks. With his talents and his reputation growing, will 12-year-old Conor have to choose?

So is “Checked” a hockey book with a dog…. or a dog book with hockey?

That’s going to depend on the interest of the reader.

On one side, author Cynthia Kadohata unabashedly includes explanations, exercises, terms, and hockey plays in her story, which won’t mean nearly as much to non-fans as it will to kids who suit up.

On the other side, this story wouldn’t be anything without Conor’s love for his dog. It’s powerful, and it drives much of the tale, including the character development, in the end.

And so, hockey book or dog story? You decide. Either way, for your 12-to-15-year-old “Checked” is a good way to spend some time.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with one pampered pooch and 13,000 books.