Matt Christopher has put together another solid sports novel, this one featuring all-terrain cycling. When the story opens, sixth-grader Will Matthews is floundering after school now that both of his parents are working. Most of his afternoons are spent watching television, and he's started to put on a little weight. His parents insist that he get involved in some kind of after-school activity, but nothing clicks until he joins the mountain bike club. Will takes to it almost immediately, and his problems seem to be solved. But how could he ever guess that the club will nearly cost him his best friend and become the center of a school controversy? The action and the issues fly fast and furiously in the latest addition to the Christopher cache. As in all of his works, the thrills and the responsibilities have equal weight.
Booklist, February 1, 1999
This sturdy and fast-moving novel posits a simple situation: an avowedly unathletic sixth-grader, pushed by his parents to find an after-school activity, discovers and falls in love with mountain biking. Will and Danny's friendship is endangered by Will's new passion and Danny's resistance to it. Both characters are well drawn, and their dialogue-whether angry or affectionate-rings quite true and reveals the common sense and good hearts of both boys. Needless to say, Christopher tidily resolves their disagreements as well as the book's subplots-a conflict between bikers and hikers; Will's parents' tendency to work too much and leave him a latchkey kid; and the bike club's need for new members and better PR, especially to make up for the behavior of an immature member. The issues that Christopher addresses-usage of public spaces, responsibility to the environment, the necessity of parents balancing work and child rearing, friends respecting one another's differences-are worked into the plot, rather than placed atop it, and Will's loving family environment, if a tad too perfect, is also reassuring and endearing.
School Library Journal, March 1999
In Mountain Bike Mania, Will fights after school loneliness and TV addiction by joining his middle school mountain biking club. Spike It! Concerns Jamie's resentment when her new stepsister joins her volleyball team. Kids will appreciate reading about two sports not generally explored in fiction. The prose has contemporary references and language; the tried-and-true Christopher style stressing sportsmanship and family values remains heavy-handed.
Horn Book (Horn Book Guide, Fall 1999)
Norwood House has produced large-print hardback library versions of the Matt Christopher Sports Library of sports oriented fiction for grades 3-6. This spring’s offerings include Catch That Pass; Center Court Sting; The Kid Who Only Hit Homers; Mountain Bike Mania; Snowboard Showdown; and Soccer Halfback. Each book provides exciting stories with conflicts centered around the different sports that kids love. These are sturdy volumes made to withstand many readings. Each is a fun read that still provides important, values-based food for thought. They are perfect for young reluctant readers. They are “Accelerated Reader” compatible. We rated this excellent series five hearts.
Reader: Bob Spear