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The Half-Court Hero

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#1 New York Times bestseller Mike Lupica begins an exciting new chapter book series, perfect for fans of Cam Jansen, featuring his trademark sports action and heart, and a lovable twin brother-sister duo who solve sports-related mysteries.

There's nothing eight-year-old twins Zach and Zoe Walker love more than playing sports and solving mysteries. And when those two worlds collide . . . well it doesn't get any better than that. When the twins start a summer basketball league at their local park, they notice the once rundown court is getting freshened up with each passing day. First new nets, then the benches have been completely restored. But who's behind it? Zach and Zoe are on the case!

In the opening installments of the Zach and Zoe Mysteries, bestselling author Mike Lupica begins a series for a new and younger audience, introducing readers to a sports-loving detective duo who can swing for the fences and catch the culprit in one fell swoop. With a recipe equal parts sports and mystery, the Zach and Zoe Mysteries break fresh ground for an author who has been called the greatest sportswriter for kids.
Mike Lupica is a prominent sports journalist and the New York Times-bestselling author of more than forty works of fiction and non-fiction. A longtime friend to Robert B. Parker, he was selected by the Parker estate to continue the Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone series. View titles by Mike Lupica
It was the Thursday after school ended for the summer in Middletown. The Walker twins, Zach and Zoe, would be heading off to camp the following Monday. But before camp was scheduled to start, Zach and Zoe had signed up to play in a basketball tournament for third-graders at Wesley Park.

They had come up with the idea the day before school let out. As soon as they mentioned it to a few kids in their class, word spread fast. Soon, most of their classmates were eager to join. The twins’ dad, Danny Walker, helped them organize the tournament. Zach and Zoe posted a sign-up sheet at the local community rec center that evening and quickly discovered they had enough players for eight teams!

Now, the first games were scheduled for the next day, Friday. The tournament would continue through the weekend, with the championship game set for Sunday afternoon.

Each team was split, three boys and three girls. Because Zach and Zoe’s dad was their coach, the eight-year-old twins were getting to do something they hardly ever got to do in sports:
Play on the same team.

From the moment they found out, they couldn’t help their excitement. “Game on!” they would say to each other whenever they got the chance.

Today, Thursday, was their last day of practice. Zach and Zoe’s grandfather, Richie, planned to walk them to Wesley Park after breakfast. Danny Walker, who was a sports reporter on TV, had to work that day, so their friend and teammate Malik Jones’s father would be running practice.

Grandpa Richie had once been a basketball star himself. First in college and then in the NBA, just like his son, Danny, had been. Zach and Zoe always loved it when their dad and grandfather joked with each other about who was the better point guard. In fact, they were doing it at breakfast.

“You know I was the better passer,” their dad said.

“But I was a better dribbler,” Grandpa Richie said, grinning. “And the better shooter.”

“They sound like us!” Zoe said as she looked at her brother.

Breakfast was a lot of fun, the way it always was when Grandpa Richie came over. He lived close by, and came for breakfast once in a while. But now that school was out and Zach and Zoe weren’t rushing to catch the bus, Grandpa Richie had come for breakfast every day that week. And every day Grandpa Richie arrived with his morning newspaper rolled up under his arm.

Zach and Zoe’s mom, Tess, often said Grandpa Richie would rather skip eating his cereal in the morning than miss reading the sports section of the paper.

“I like to keep up with the news,” Grandpa Richie liked to say. “Good news and bad.”

The bad news at breakfast today hadn’t come from the morning paper, though. It came from Zach and Zoe. They told Grandpa Richie the same thing they’d told their parents the night before. When they showed up at the Wesley Park basketball court earlier that week, the rims were missing nets.
Grandpa Richie looked up from his newspaper, and said, “Something like that doesn’t just affect the two of you. It might affect a hundred kids this summer.”

“Maybe even more,” Zach and Zoe’s dad said.

“That court needs more than new nets,” their mom said. “But I was at a meeting for the town board just yesterday. They told me there’s nothing in the budget for improvements. All their money is going toward building an addition to the community rec center.”

“Well,” Grandpa Richie said, “somebody ought to do something. A lot has changed in the world since I was the twins’ age. But a good basketball court still matters.”

After breakfast, Zach, Zoe, and Grandpa Richie left the house and headed toward the park.

Grandpa Richie finally stopped talking about the court as he and the twins walked through the big archway at the entrance to Wesley Park. He said it was time to change the subject to something happier:
Basketball.

“I know you two get a kick out of listening to me and your dad argue about who was the better player when we were young,” Grandpa Richie said. “But I’ve never asked which one of you is the better point guard.”

Without hesitating, and without knowing what the other twin would do, Zach pointed at Zoe at the exact same moment she pointed at him.

The twins smiled at each other. They saw Grandpa Richie smile, too. He always seemed to be smiling when he was with them.

“Who really was the better point guard, you or Dad?” Zach asked.

“He was,” Grandpa Richie said. “But don’t tell him I said so.”

“You know what we should do,” Zoe said. “When our tournament is over, we should have a game of two-on-two in our driveway. Zach, you can play with Grandpa Richie against Dad and me.”

“That would be awesome!” Zach said.

“Awesomer than awesome!” Zoe said.

Then Zoe turned and nodded at her brother, and the two of them gave each other their special high five. The one where they spun around, bumped hips and elbows, then jumped up and slapped palms.

“We didn’t jump around that way when I was young,” Grandpa Richie said. “I really am getting old.”

Zach and Zoe giggled the way they always did when their grandfather talked about how old he was. They just thought it was funny because he was actually younger than most of the grandparents they knew.

“But holding a basketball in my hands still makes me feel young,” he said.

Grandpa Richie was carrying Zach and Zoe’s basketball on his hip. Suddenly, he started dribbling it, first with his right hand, then with his left. Then he bounced it through his legs and caught it from behind with his right hand without looking. Next, he flipped it over his head and caught it. Finally, he spun it on the index finger of his right hand.

“You’re as quick as lightning!” Zoe said.

“As a matter of fact,” Grandpa Richie said, “that’s what my teammates used to say about me.”

Then he stopped in his tracks. Zach and Zoe saw him staring up ahead at the basketball court.

“Hey,” he said, “check out those baskets!”

He was smiling again. And when Zach and Zoe saw what he meant, they did, too.

The baskets on both ends of the court now had new white nets hanging from them.

“Where did those come from?” Zoe said.

“Maybe somebody just decided to do something nice for us,” Zach said.

“Or . . .” Zoe said, “maybe we’ve got a mystery on our hands!”

“They’re just nets,” Zach said. “It’s probably not much of a mystery.”

“It’s still mysterious,” Zoe said, her facing lighting up. “Which makes it a mystery. We need to find out who did this.”

Here we go again, Zach thought .
"Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries . . . Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the "right thing."  . . .  the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity. Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd."--Kirkus Reviews

"Mike Lupica is bringing his sports knowledge and excellent writing ability to the chapter book world...[Zach and Zoe] have exciting playoff games, supportive parents, and act true to their ages . . . there is no evil involved in the mysteries, and the community is supportive. It is evident early on who or what is behind the mysteries, but this should be a positive for youngsters who are just getting started with guessing the outcomes of chapter books."--School Library Connection

"Zach and Zoe are likable and kind to each other, and their parents are supportive. Lupica knows how to write sports action with a heart . . . Give these to young readers who are looking for easy sports fiction or who are new to the mystery genre."--School Library Journal

About

#1 New York Times bestseller Mike Lupica begins an exciting new chapter book series, perfect for fans of Cam Jansen, featuring his trademark sports action and heart, and a lovable twin brother-sister duo who solve sports-related mysteries.

There's nothing eight-year-old twins Zach and Zoe Walker love more than playing sports and solving mysteries. And when those two worlds collide . . . well it doesn't get any better than that. When the twins start a summer basketball league at their local park, they notice the once rundown court is getting freshened up with each passing day. First new nets, then the benches have been completely restored. But who's behind it? Zach and Zoe are on the case!

In the opening installments of the Zach and Zoe Mysteries, bestselling author Mike Lupica begins a series for a new and younger audience, introducing readers to a sports-loving detective duo who can swing for the fences and catch the culprit in one fell swoop. With a recipe equal parts sports and mystery, the Zach and Zoe Mysteries break fresh ground for an author who has been called the greatest sportswriter for kids.

Author

Mike Lupica is a prominent sports journalist and the New York Times-bestselling author of more than forty works of fiction and non-fiction. A longtime friend to Robert B. Parker, he was selected by the Parker estate to continue the Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone series. View titles by Mike Lupica

Excerpt

It was the Thursday after school ended for the summer in Middletown. The Walker twins, Zach and Zoe, would be heading off to camp the following Monday. But before camp was scheduled to start, Zach and Zoe had signed up to play in a basketball tournament for third-graders at Wesley Park.

They had come up with the idea the day before school let out. As soon as they mentioned it to a few kids in their class, word spread fast. Soon, most of their classmates were eager to join. The twins’ dad, Danny Walker, helped them organize the tournament. Zach and Zoe posted a sign-up sheet at the local community rec center that evening and quickly discovered they had enough players for eight teams!

Now, the first games were scheduled for the next day, Friday. The tournament would continue through the weekend, with the championship game set for Sunday afternoon.

Each team was split, three boys and three girls. Because Zach and Zoe’s dad was their coach, the eight-year-old twins were getting to do something they hardly ever got to do in sports:
Play on the same team.

From the moment they found out, they couldn’t help their excitement. “Game on!” they would say to each other whenever they got the chance.

Today, Thursday, was their last day of practice. Zach and Zoe’s grandfather, Richie, planned to walk them to Wesley Park after breakfast. Danny Walker, who was a sports reporter on TV, had to work that day, so their friend and teammate Malik Jones’s father would be running practice.

Grandpa Richie had once been a basketball star himself. First in college and then in the NBA, just like his son, Danny, had been. Zach and Zoe always loved it when their dad and grandfather joked with each other about who was the better point guard. In fact, they were doing it at breakfast.

“You know I was the better passer,” their dad said.

“But I was a better dribbler,” Grandpa Richie said, grinning. “And the better shooter.”

“They sound like us!” Zoe said as she looked at her brother.

Breakfast was a lot of fun, the way it always was when Grandpa Richie came over. He lived close by, and came for breakfast once in a while. But now that school was out and Zach and Zoe weren’t rushing to catch the bus, Grandpa Richie had come for breakfast every day that week. And every day Grandpa Richie arrived with his morning newspaper rolled up under his arm.

Zach and Zoe’s mom, Tess, often said Grandpa Richie would rather skip eating his cereal in the morning than miss reading the sports section of the paper.

“I like to keep up with the news,” Grandpa Richie liked to say. “Good news and bad.”

The bad news at breakfast today hadn’t come from the morning paper, though. It came from Zach and Zoe. They told Grandpa Richie the same thing they’d told their parents the night before. When they showed up at the Wesley Park basketball court earlier that week, the rims were missing nets.
Grandpa Richie looked up from his newspaper, and said, “Something like that doesn’t just affect the two of you. It might affect a hundred kids this summer.”

“Maybe even more,” Zach and Zoe’s dad said.

“That court needs more than new nets,” their mom said. “But I was at a meeting for the town board just yesterday. They told me there’s nothing in the budget for improvements. All their money is going toward building an addition to the community rec center.”

“Well,” Grandpa Richie said, “somebody ought to do something. A lot has changed in the world since I was the twins’ age. But a good basketball court still matters.”

After breakfast, Zach, Zoe, and Grandpa Richie left the house and headed toward the park.

Grandpa Richie finally stopped talking about the court as he and the twins walked through the big archway at the entrance to Wesley Park. He said it was time to change the subject to something happier:
Basketball.

“I know you two get a kick out of listening to me and your dad argue about who was the better player when we were young,” Grandpa Richie said. “But I’ve never asked which one of you is the better point guard.”

Without hesitating, and without knowing what the other twin would do, Zach pointed at Zoe at the exact same moment she pointed at him.

The twins smiled at each other. They saw Grandpa Richie smile, too. He always seemed to be smiling when he was with them.

“Who really was the better point guard, you or Dad?” Zach asked.

“He was,” Grandpa Richie said. “But don’t tell him I said so.”

“You know what we should do,” Zoe said. “When our tournament is over, we should have a game of two-on-two in our driveway. Zach, you can play with Grandpa Richie against Dad and me.”

“That would be awesome!” Zach said.

“Awesomer than awesome!” Zoe said.

Then Zoe turned and nodded at her brother, and the two of them gave each other their special high five. The one where they spun around, bumped hips and elbows, then jumped up and slapped palms.

“We didn’t jump around that way when I was young,” Grandpa Richie said. “I really am getting old.”

Zach and Zoe giggled the way they always did when their grandfather talked about how old he was. They just thought it was funny because he was actually younger than most of the grandparents they knew.

“But holding a basketball in my hands still makes me feel young,” he said.

Grandpa Richie was carrying Zach and Zoe’s basketball on his hip. Suddenly, he started dribbling it, first with his right hand, then with his left. Then he bounced it through his legs and caught it from behind with his right hand without looking. Next, he flipped it over his head and caught it. Finally, he spun it on the index finger of his right hand.

“You’re as quick as lightning!” Zoe said.

“As a matter of fact,” Grandpa Richie said, “that’s what my teammates used to say about me.”

Then he stopped in his tracks. Zach and Zoe saw him staring up ahead at the basketball court.

“Hey,” he said, “check out those baskets!”

He was smiling again. And when Zach and Zoe saw what he meant, they did, too.

The baskets on both ends of the court now had new white nets hanging from them.

“Where did those come from?” Zoe said.

“Maybe somebody just decided to do something nice for us,” Zach said.

“Or . . .” Zoe said, “maybe we’ve got a mystery on our hands!”

“They’re just nets,” Zach said. “It’s probably not much of a mystery.”

“It’s still mysterious,” Zoe said, her facing lighting up. “Which makes it a mystery. We need to find out who did this.”

Here we go again, Zach thought .

Praise

"Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries . . . Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the "right thing."  . . .  the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity. Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd."--Kirkus Reviews

"Mike Lupica is bringing his sports knowledge and excellent writing ability to the chapter book world...[Zach and Zoe] have exciting playoff games, supportive parents, and act true to their ages . . . there is no evil involved in the mysteries, and the community is supportive. It is evident early on who or what is behind the mysteries, but this should be a positive for youngsters who are just getting started with guessing the outcomes of chapter books."--School Library Connection

"Zach and Zoe are likable and kind to each other, and their parents are supportive. Lupica knows how to write sports action with a heart . . . Give these to young readers who are looking for easy sports fiction or who are new to the mystery genre."--School Library Journal

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