The Stars From Mars
(Slapshots #1)

From the book:

It was Friday, and the team had just come back from a practice at the community center in Waterloo. The coach seemed thrilled with how the workout had gone.
"Your skating is really getting stronger," he praised. "I'd stack you up against any thingamabob in the league. I'd like to work on arm strength next. First thing in the morning and before bed at night, everybody -- thirty whatchamacallits."
"Push-ups," translated Mrs. B.
Jared tried to slip a piece of potpie to the Bolitskys' dog, whatsisface.
Whatsisface refused it.
"We're supposed to pick a team captain," Boom Boom went on. "I have to hand in the name by the next league dingus. Any suggestions?"
Brian shrugged. "That's easy. Trent."
"Oh, please!" groaned Alexia. "I'm so sick of hearing about the magnificence of Trent Ruben."
"He's our best player, Lex," put in Josh. "The best player in the whole league."
Alexia snorted. "I can just hear the Waterloo kids laughing at us: 'Oh, the Martians couldn't even pick a captain from Mars!' Trent treats us like garbage, and we glorify him? Phooey!"
"Hold the phone," ordered Boom Boom. "This is a team doohickey, and we don't want any name-calling. Especially against someone who isn't here."
"Well that's the whole point," Alexia argued, her voice dropping fast. "He's not here. He's never here. How can you have a captain who doesn't even go to your team doohickeys?"
There was a long silence as we digested this. Yeah, Alexia could be a class-A crab. But when she used her reverse volume control, she had a nasty habit of being right.
"That's enough --" began Coach Bolitsky.
At that moment, the bell on the shop door jingled. We all looked up.
There, gasping for breath, stood Trent.
Trent looked frantically around the restaurant. "What a relief!" he wheezed. "You're still all here!"
Trent got his breathing under control and started to talk. "Happer Feldman just came over to my house. He told me that the Stars aren't a hundred percent in the league yet. It's only a trial membership."
"You mean they're going to throw us out?" wailed Cal.
Coach Bolitsky stood up. "Mr. Whosis can only cancel our membership if he can show we're not competitive."
"We're competitive," Brian put in. "I mean, sort of."
"We've got to prove it," Trent said firmly.
"But how can we prove we're good enough when the league hates us?" Jared protested.
"By winning," replied Trent. "They can't complain that we're not competitive if we've beaten somebody."
All eyes turned to the coach for confirmation.
"Now you sound like a dingus!" exclaimed Boom Boom.
"Team," translated his wife.
"We've got two games before the November fifteenth meeting," Trent went on. "There's the Flyers on Sunday and the Penguins on the twelfth. We can't count on beating the Penguins. They're just too strong."
"We'll kill the Flyers!" cheered Cal. He looked around, worried. "Won't we?"
"The Flyers are a solid bunch of whosises," said Boom Boom. And you could hear the years of experience from an NHL player who'd spent most of his career with his back against the wall. "But we can beat them. We have to. We've got no choice."

Copyright © 1999 Gordon Korman used by permission

The Stars from Mars is a rollicking good whatsit with the kind of eccentric whosits we've come to expect from Gordon Whashisname. The first of a four-book hockey thingamabob from Scholastic, it chronicles the formation of the Mars Health Food Stars, sponsored and coached by former NHL player Boom Boom Bolitsky.
Boom Boom is a great guy, but he obviously took a few too many pucks to the head during his career, and his coaching advise is often along the lines of 'The whatsit! Hit the whatsit with the thingamajig before that whosit knocks your doohickey off!' But Boom Boom is pretty much background comic relief,as this book is about the Mars stars!
The story is narrated by 'Chipmonk' Adelman (newshound for his elementary school newspaper, though he dreams of writing for Sports Illustrated), and tells of the 'Martians', the kids from a very small town named Mars who are the butt of all the jokes in Waterloo, the city where they have to attend school. When Boom Boom is given as chance to coach a small team, everybody in Waterloo sees it as just another opportunity to ridicule the Martians.
But these kids are determined, Alexia Colwin has something to prove (as the first girl to ever play in Waterloo's Slapshot League), and Boom Boom is wise enough, fractured conversational style aside, to make the most of his team's somewhat unorthodox strengths! The cards may be stacked against them, but the Mars Stars are going to try and live up to their name.

The concept is nothing new … taking a bunch of misfits and turning them into champions was common story fodder even before the Bad News Bears came along, and Gordon has visited this ground before with the Zucchini Warriors and the Toilet Paper Tigers. But with the Slapshots series, he's created some great new characters and put them into a game he really cares about, and it shows in the reading.
If it has been a while since your last new Korman read, give Slapshots a try! I think it has really got the stuff. (But remember the author and the title, because your bookstore isn't going to be able to help you much if you ask for the thingamabob by the whosit writing about the whachamacallit!)