Falling Short

by Ernesto Cisneros (Author)

Falling Short
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Ernesto Cisneros, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of Efrén Divided, is back with a hilarious and heartfelt novel about two best friends who must rely on each other in unexpected ways. A great next pick for readers who loved Ghost by Jason Reynolds or The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez.

Isaac and Marco already know sixth grade is going to change their lives. But it won't change things at home--not without each other's help. This year, star basketball player Isaac plans on finally keeping up with his schoolwork. Better grades will surely stop Isaac's parents from arguing all the time. Meanwhile, straight-A Marco vows on finally winning his father's approval by earning a spot on the school's basketball team. But will their friendship and support for each other be enough to keep the two boys from falling short?

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-7--Marco Honeyman and Isaac Castillo are next-door neighbors and best friends, despite their apparent differences: Jewish-Mexican Marco is small and book-smart, while Isaac, who is also Latinx, is a gifted and hard-working basketball player who struggles to manage his homework. Part of Marco and Isaac's bond is their desire for approval from their divorced parents. Isaac hopes his mom won't give up on him the way she gave up on his dad because of his drinking, and Marco wishes his dad would come back and be proud of him. When they enter middle school, Marco and Isaac stand by each other, despite different classes and friend groups. When Marco decides to try out for the baseketball team to impress his father (despite never playing before), Isaac coaches him. The boys' bond of friendship is the core of the story; they have honest conversations, admire each other's good qualities, and support each other through anxiety attacks and family problems. After a tough tournament game, Isaac concludes, "Life is like a game of basketball...it pretty much comes down to the hustle we put in." VERDICT At every turn, Isaac and Marco support each other in this affirming story of basketball, middle school, friendship, and family, and choosing kindness and determination over easy cowardice or cruelty. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.--Jenny Arch

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Cisneros (Efrén Divided) follows up his Pura Belpré Award-winning debut with a playful and perceptive middle grade contemporary tale about two best friends that's dedicated to "everyone who has ever felt like they fall short of what the world expects of them." It's the start of sixth grade at California's Mendez Middle School, and best friends Isaac Castillo, who is of Mexican descent, and Marco Honeyman, who is "half-Jewish, half-Mexican," have big goals for the school year. Though Isaac is a gifted basketball player who displays excellent sportsmanship on the court, he struggles to get good grades. Meanwhile, Marco, a short-statured, self-professed "geek" and straight-A student, has no natural aptitude for sports. But with renewed efforts--and each other's help--they aim to become all-rounders on and off the court ("Win or lose, you gotta keep shooting the ball--because eventually, it will go in"). Told through animated alternating first-person chapters, Cisneros's story not only captures the anxiety--and at times, humor--of trying to measure up to expectations, it also tackles delicate subject matter, such as parental absence and alcohol reliance, with profound sensitivity and nuance. A narrative slam dunk for fans of Donna Barba Higuera and Meg Medina. Ages 8-12. Agent: Deborah Warren, East/West Literary. (Mar.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Cisneros always writes characters full of foibles and humor and human warmth, and he really knows his basketball."—Carlos Hernandez, Pura Belpré-winning author of Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Quill Tree Books
Publication date
March 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV013060 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Parents
JUV005000 - Juvenile Fiction | Boys & Men
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
JUV032020 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Basketball
JUV011030 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Hispanic & Latino
Library of Congress categories

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