He and his dad live in a small house in Canyon Creek near the Angeles National Forest. Connor realizes his dream of making the team but is soon faced with some tough decisions when his beloved dog Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer. He has dealt with some tough times in life already, as his mom died in a car accident when he was little. He had very little contact with her side of the family from then on, so when his mom’s parents want to come and see him again, Connor is a bit hesitant. The book is very interesting and takes the reader through a range of emotions, much like Connor faces in the story.
Kadohata has written many books, including Kira-Kira, which won the Newbery Medal. She also won the National Book Award in the Young People Literature category for her book The Thing About Luck. Kadohata probably writes a book “every two to three years” in her estimation. She began writing Checked in 2014.
Kadohata’s son is obsessed with hockey and has been playing since he was little. Writing Checked, she said, “was easier because I didn’t have to research as much as other books I had done in the past. I’m always at the rink so it was a natural setting.”
What’s cool about the book is that the names of the characters are based on some of her son’s teammates, including Connor! And Kadohata has a dog named Thunder. “Sinbad, the dog in the book, is based a lot off Thunder, as he’s a Doberman,” she said.
Any competitive sport is time-consuming. There can be lots of pressure to win and what level you play can be very important. Should you want to make a career out of the sport, in this case hockey, it can be important to some to play at the Triple A level. This was an important goal of Connor’s in the book, and when he made the team, he and his dad were on top of the world!
“I think what Connor learned,” said Kadohata “is that you need to work hard and you need to be a good person. That doesn't mean life is going to look out for you, but it’s still important to do those things to have a good life.” It’s clear that the primary message for young readers to take away is that there’s more to life then hockey.
Kadohata decided in college she wanted to be an author and has been writing ever since. When you’re a parent, and your kids are involved in sports, finding the time to write can be a challenge.
“Sometimes I write a bit every few weeks, then sometimes I write every day for a few weeks,” she said. “I don’t have a regular schedule. When I can find time and I’m inspired, I write!”
Kadohata does have some routine to her writing, though. She needs to have music on when she is writing, and she also prefers to write at night. “I used to take the train a lot to work,” she said. “I liked to write on the train, as I could sit there and listen to music and look out at the landscape.”
If you are young and you decide you want to be a writer when you grow up, it can be a tough road ahead. “It’s really hard work, but it’s really, really worth it,” said Kadohata. “You should never give up because there are definitely going to be people who are going to say no to you or [that] you should do something else. But in the end it’s so worth it.”
Connor is a very kind-hearted kid whose whole world is hockey until life forces him to make some tough decisions and have a new perspective. This book was a great read— centered on a great sport—with a tremendous message.
Cover courtesy of S&S/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books