Cover image for Checked / Cynthia Kadohata ; with illustrations by Maurizio Zorat.
Checked / Cynthia Kadohata ; with illustrations by Maurizio Zorat.

First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum, [2018]

Physical Description:
408 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
General Note:
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book.
To help his dog through cancer treatment, Conor gives up hockey and finds himself considering who he is without the sport that has defined him, and connecting more with his family and best friend.
Audience/Reading Level:
Interest age level: 10-14.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
KAD Book Teen Collection
KAD Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction

On Order



"Kadohata's slapshot is the heart-swelling narrative of a father and son...Truly powerful." --Jason Reynolds
"A deeply poignant story about a boy sorting out his priorities." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A vivid, memorable portrayal of a boy within his family, his sport, and his gradually broadening world." -- Booklist (starred review)

From Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata comes a brilliantly-realized novel about a hockey player who must discover who he is without the sport that defines him.

Hockey is Conor's life. His whole life. He'll say it himself, he's a hockey beast. It's his dad's whole life too--and Conor is sure that's why his stepmom, Jenny, left. There are very few things Conor and his dad love more than the game, and one of those things is their Doberman, Sinbad. When Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, Conor chooses to put his hockey lessons and practices on hold so they can pay for Sinbad's chemotherapy.

But without hockey to distract him, Conor begins to notice more. Like his dad's crying bouts, and his friend's difficult family life. And then Conor notices one more thing: Without hockey, the one thing that makes him feel special, is he really special at all?

Author Notes

Cynthia Kadohata was born on July 2, 1956. She is a Japanese American author of children's books. Kadohata won the Newbery Medal in 2005 for her title, Kira-Kira. She also won a PEN award in 2006 for Weedflower and in 2013 she won the U.S. National Book Award for The Thing About Luck.

Kadohata was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was a high school drop out. She attained a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California and went on to attend graduate programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Conor MacRae may not be a stellar student, but the half-Japanese 11-year-old is a champ on the ice. Conor lives and breathes hockey, especially with imminent tryouts for the Grizzlies, a AAA team. When Conor's pet Doberman gets cancer, he has to decide whether to give up expensive hockey lessons to pay for Sinbad's chemotherapy. Revealing the sacrifices young athletes and their families must often make, National Book Award winner Kadohata (The Thing About Luck) creates a deeply poignant story about a boy sorting out his priorities. Conor fills readers in on a wealth of hockey details, slowing the pace somewhat, but his problems are deeply relatable, and Kadohata never sugarcoats harsh realities. Conor's hockey commitments contributed to his father's and stepmother's divorce ("When a kid plays travel hockey, it takes up a lot of space in your life. Some people don't like that"), and their precarious financial situation is viscerally felt. Despite its sad moments, Kadohata's story is uplifting on balance, sensitively showing how Conor's hardships have made him wiser and more realistic without diminishing his passions. Ages 10-14. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Eleven-year-old Conor MacRae has two passions in life: ice hockey, which he plays and practices for obsessively; and his dog, Sinbad, who is diagnosed with cancer early in the novel. Sinbads expensive medical treatment eats into the limited money that also must fund Conors hockey participation, leading Conor to earn money by washing cars throughout his Southern California neighborhood. His single father (who played hockey when he was younger, made the NHL briefly, and lives somewhat vicariously through Conors success) is a cop, and the difficulties of that job are not lost on Conor. Kadohatas first-person, present-tense narrative manages to juxtapose Conors enthusiastic play-by-play hockey commentary with tender interactions with his father and dog. Occasional mention of Conors Japanese American mother (who died when he was small), too, adds poignancy. Its a long book for a slight narrative arc, but the focus here is squarely on the characters. jonathan hunt (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Review of Books Review

How does it feel to almost die of thirst? Most readers will never know, though this riveting book will make many feel as if they've had a taste of it. Twelve-yearold Nisha and her family, refugees headed for the border of India, are on a desperate journey through the desert. Nisha's legs start "quivering like jelly in the heat," her "teeth feel like apricot skin" and, when she tries to stand, "my arms and legs felt filled with sand." Set in 1947, the novel tells the story of Nisha's family's struggle during the bloody events of Partition, when India was divided into two countries after the nation's independence from Britain. Nisha and her brother, Amil, are from a mixed family; their deceased mother was Muslim and their father, a respected physician, is Hindu. As violence looms, the family must flee their comfortable home in what's now Pakistan and cross the border to the new India. Nisha is especially bereft at her separation from the family's kind Muslim cook, Kazu, who kindles her love of cooking (a freshly folded samosa feels to her like a "small animal, soft and warm in my hand") and encourages her to keep a diary. Hiranandani ("The Whole Story of Half a Girl") does a remarkable job conveying the terrors and absurdities of the conflict in ways young readers can understand. Neighbors turn against neighbors and fear is so thick that even children are seen as a threat. ("What side are we even on?" Amil asks at one point.) She's also created a family with satisfying complexity: While the father is a good man, he shows scorn for Amil's poor academic performance. But it's the family's dramatic journey that will keep readers to the end. The finale - unabashedly weepy, deeply cathartic - is as satisfying as a long, cool drink of water. CHECKED By Cynthia Kadohata 400 pp. Atheneum. $16.99. (Ages 10 to 14) "I've known for a long time that you gotta be intense about stuff, since anything can happen in the future." So says Conor McRae, the 11-year-old hockey player at the heart of Kadohata's quiet, masterly seventh novel. Conor is nothing if not intense about his sport - his goal of making it to the N.H.L. pushes him to 4 a.m. wake-up times and grueling practices where coaches pinch his neck and scream, "Why aren't you moving your feet?!! " But hockey is an expensive pursuit and Conor's dad, a police officer, barely makes enough to cover equipment. Then Conor's dog and "soul mate," Sinbad, develops cancer and Conor must face the messy aspects of life outside hockey - his dad's depression, his estranged maternal grandparents (Conor's mom died when he was 2), the possibility of life without Sinbad. You don't have to know about power skating or stick time to get sucked into this moving story. The Newbery Medalwinning Kadohata ("Kira-Kira," "The Thing About Luck") gives readers a fascinating window into the world of elite junior athletes, those kids who seem to live "on a whole different planet" from their classmates. Conor is impossible not to like; hardworking and kind, he's capable of 33 perfect push-ups and a killer slap shot, but still says lovably lunkheaded stuff like, "Someone should declare Taco Bell a national treasure." And Kadohata's portrayal of the steady relationship between Conor and his dad is refreshing - a welcome reminder that not all father-son relationships are fraught and dysfunctional. "When I started playing, it was like Dad was living through me, but not in a bad way," Conor says. "It was more like him and me got so bonded he was out there with me." THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE By Christopher Paul Curtis 256 pp. Scholastic. $16.99. (Ages 9 to 12) Curtis's books occupy that all too rare space in middle grade lit; they're school curriculum standbys that are also crowd pleasers. Teachers like the way Curtis explores family dynamics and social justice through historical fiction. Fifth graders think it's hilarious when a kid gets his lips stuck while trying to kiss his reflection in a frozen mirror (see: "The Watsons Go to Birmingham"). Curtis's ninth novel is among his most suspenseful, an adventure story about a white sharecropper's son in antebellum South Carolina. "Little Charlie" Bobo is just 12, but at 6-foot-4, he looks as "growed and strong" as "a man and a half." When Charlie's father dies, the boy becomes easy prey for Captain Buck, the overseer of a plantation with a "rep-a-tation knowed even beyond Richland District." The fearsome Cap'n tricks Charlie into helping him hunt down two slaves who have escaped to Detroit. And so Charlie embarks on a tense journey north, simultaneously captor and captive. Readers who like their books packed with thrills will find plenty of action (horses, gunplay and disguises, for starters), to get their blood pumping. But a gentle tale this is not. Curtis doesn't sugarcoat the horrors of the time. We see the Cap'n "clenching on to a blood-dripping whip whilst standing o'er the shredded-open back" of a man and get a vivid description of cat hauling, one of the cruelest practices in the history of American slavery. At times, it's practically Tarantino-esque: "I will kill you, come back and kill your ma and anything else that was ever alive on that land," the Cap'n threatens Charlie. But Curtis is also a master at shifting tones - and so for every nail-biting moment, there's a note of goofy joy or slapstick humor (often about Captain Buck's "ripish" body odor). The novel gets a bit heavy-handed when Charlie meets a doppelgänger of sorts, the equally oversize 12-year-old son of the runaway couple, but "Little Charlie" is a keeper. Raised in poverty, ignorance and racism, Charlie develops his own moral compass - and becomes brave enough to act on it. THE HEART AND MIND OF FRANCES PAULEY By April Stevens 196 pp. Schwartz & Wade. $16.99. (Ages 8 to 12) Some books are about stuff happening. This isn't one of them. But what this understated middle grade debut might lack in plot, it more than makes up in observation, mood and full-on feeling. Frances Pauley is a dreamy 11-year-old who spends hours in her "rock room," the rock formation behind her house, where she watches crows, tracks bugs and does her homework. A solitary soul, she calls herself "Figgrotten." "Giving herself this name felt strangely freeing," Stevens writes. Like a young Ramona Quimby, she has that un-self-conscious, unquestioning sense of self that all too often vanishes in girls when they hit adolescence. Figgrotten's main conflict is with her 13-year-old sister, who has withdrawn into sullen teenagerdom and wants nothing to do with her "little ugly freak" sister. A new boy in her class who's becoming the teacher's favorite also has Figgrotten seething. And she harbors the first inklings of self-doubt after being mocked at school. When she's confronted with a sudden loss, she feels utterly alone. Can a child with an inner life as fierce and private as Frances' make her way toward friendship and connection? There's much about Frances' story that might cause some to label it a "girl book" - the very pretty cover art by Sophie Blackall, for starters, and the emotional weight packed into a tiny pink hair clip - but there's plenty for boys to appreciate too. Any younger sibling will connect to Figgrotten's hurt and bewilderment when she is shut out by her sister. And the image of Figgrotten's bedroom, crammed with "crazy leaves that were the size of dinner plates, hickory nuts that had absolutely perfect holes gnawed in them, rocks with mica shining inside them," all of which she's laid out "in a trail that went all the way around the edge of the room," is nothing short of magical. CATHERINE hong, a contributing editor at Elle Decor, blogs about children's books at



Checked CHAPTER 1 I GAZE AT the tall stairs and pause, gathering my strength, leaning my head back to stretch my neck. The sky's a little gray 'cause there's a fire near our house--we live in Canyon Country, near the Angeles National Forest, and the forest is on fire. But this morning the smoke still looked far away, so Dad and I decided to drive to the park and do our usual sixty-minute Saturday workout, just 'cause we're workout animals. If you make an excuse not to work out one time, that means you can make an excuse the next time too. We've brought my Doberman, Sinbad, like we always do. There're 280 concrete stairs leading from one level of the park to another. Now Sinbad looks at me eagerly, wagging his stub of a tail, but he never climbs up and down the stairs with us. He just doesn't see the point. Dad starts running up the stairs, and I follow. "Come on, Sinbad!" I cry out, but even without looking, I know he won't join in. Dad's thirty-five and in amazing shape for an older guy. He's already way ahead of me, so I pick it up. It's eighty degrees, though it's only seven in the morning, and I'm immediately sweating. June in Canyon Country can get pretty hot. My mind is on how my next week is looking hockey-wise. Tomorrow, three and a half hours of stick time with Shu Zhang. Then dryland muscle work with Shu. Monday, power skating and coaches' time with Aleksei Petrov. Tuesday, pre-tryout clinic with Dusan Nagy. Wednesday, off day. Thursday, lesson with Ivan Bogdanov. He's a figure skater who competed for Bulgaria in the Olympics. I skate with him to help my agility. Friday, pre-tryout clinic with another club in case I don't make my first-choice team in almost two weeks. Saturday, three and a half hours of stick time with Shu. Then dryland with Shu. Plus any scrimmage that I can latch onto during the week. Plus working out a few times with my dad. Oh, and sometimes I do stick time by myself, just to get on the ice. Hockey is in my soul. I inherited my soul from Dad. He made it to the American Hockey League, which is the main development league for the National Hockey League, which is the premier hockey league in the world. He says that when he was twenty-three years old and briefly the best player on his team, the NHL was so close he could taste it. Then he made it up there--to the NHL!--but got sent back down in three weeks. All together he stayed in the AHL for four years, all in Des Moines, Iowa. That's where I was born, a million miles from here. We sprint up and down the steps for fifteen minutes, then trudge up and down for another fifteen. Afterward--soaking wet--I lie on the grass to rest by the steps. Sinbad sniffs at me. "Enough relaxing!" Dad says, but I've only been lying there for maybe one minute! "Seriously? I just laid down!" He looks at me with zero sympathy. That's the way it is with hockey. Nobody has any sympathy for you, not one person. We do push-ups--I can do thirty-three perfect ones and a few more half-baked ones. But I'm somehow getting my energy back. Then we rest for thirty seconds and do clap push-ups--I do ten. Usually I only do eight, so I'm suddenly thinking I'm pretty beast. Squats, several exercises with a ten-pound medicine ball. Frog jumps, one-legged slaloms, scissors, double Dutch. Five hundred crunches. I'm an animal! We finish with stretching. I'm a flexible kid, but for some reason I hate stretching. I just go through the motions. Then Dad takes a break with his phone while I walk off with Sinbad. There's hardly anyone in the park. Dad lets me go off by myself with Sinbad 'cause my dog's really muscular and really protective. Dobermans stick to you like superglue. Otherwise I'm not allowed to be out alone. Dad's a cop, so he's seen a lot of bad stuff--he knows what can happen to a kid on his own, even in Canyon Country. Sinbad and Dad are my only family. I mean, I have an aunt and my grandparents, but I don't have a mom or sisters and brothers and cousins. My mom died when I was two. I can't remember her at all, but Dad says I was so close to her that for my first year nobody else could even hold me. Then my dad was married for eight years to another woman, but it didn't work out for a bunch of reasons that I'll get into at some point. One reason was hockey--when a kid plays travel hockey, it takes up a lot of space in your life. Some people don't like that. When I started playing, it was like Dad was living through me, but not in a bad way. It was more like him and me got so bonded he was out there with me on the ice during games. Even though I play defense, I got the winning goal in one playoff game, and later in the car he was tearing up about it. Getting that goal was pretty much the best moment of my life. Everybody was jumping all over me and pounding my helmet so that my brain was ringing and I was in a total other, like, awareness plane. When I told Dad about that later, his eyes got a faraway look, and he said, "Yeahhhhhhhh . . ." Excerpted from Checked by Cynthia Kadohata All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.