“Stealing the Game” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

3/25/2015, 9:05 p.m.
Oh, how you hate to lose! You hate it so much, in fact, that it’s not really an option: you’ll ...

Oh, how you hate to lose!

You hate it so much, in fact, that it’s not really an option: you’ll do anything and work hardest to make sure that you’re not finishing last. It’s all or nothing for you, and in the new book “Stealing the Game” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, it’s about more than how you play the game.

Everyone at Orangetree Middle School knew that thirteen-year-old Chris Richards was someone they could trust, a decent-enough student, but kind of quiet. Even Chris himself would admit that, and he was okay with it. He always thought his observation skills were better than anything else he did, except maybe basketball.

Yep, Chris was a good kid. So it came as a huge surprise to everyone when a cop came to algebra class and escorted him to the principal’s office.

The whole mess started four days earlier.

Jax, Chris’s older brother was the “Golden Boy.” Always likeable, good-hearted, smart, capable, and responsible, Jax had spent the last year at Stanford University on a full scholarship, studying to being a lawyer. The Richards – both lawyers – were proud of him but when Jax came home and announced that he’d quit school, well, it was like World War III had started in the living room.

Chris had always looked up to Jax, and Jax’s behavior didn’t make sense. Then again, in Chris’s world, not much did. Girls were a total mystery, teachers were a surprise, and most of his classes were a struggle. But basketball… now, that made sense. For Chris, the only thing better than a good pick-up game was drawing comics.

Ever since his parents started pushing Chris toward college, he wished he could tell them that being a comic book artist was what he wanted to do someday. He loved comics, loved collecting them, and he loved imagining ways that his own main character, Master Thief, could save the world.

But Master Thief couldn’t save Jax. Jax, in fact, was in big trouble and he needed Chris’s help with a real burglary.

Jax, you see, had a secret life, too…

Ka-thunk-ka-thunk-ka-thunk. If you’ve got a basketball fan around, that’s a familiar sound at your house. But you’ll silence that sound for a few hours, if you can swap the ball for this book.

More than just a basketball novel, “Stealing the Game” is also a mystery, solved by a sharp, smart, funny, and genuinely nice thirteen-year-old. The real Dream Team of authors Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld introduce readers to that kind of kid, the one you wish your kids would hang out with - but while Chris Richards is surely the star here, the whole rest of the cast of this story appealed to me, too. And the book’s Big Reveal? It’s perfect. Three points.

Another nice thing: there’s a strong girl b-baller here as well, which means that this isn’t just a book for boys. Actually, it’s not just a book for kids, either: for anybody, any age, “Stealing the Game” is a win.

“Stealing the Game” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

c.2015, Disney Hyperion

$16.99 / $17.99 Canada

293 pages