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Checked Hardcover – Illustrated, February 6, 2018

4.5 out of 5 stars 103 ratings

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Things We Do in the Dark

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–6—"Hockey kid" Conor McRae is obsessed with his sport. At age 12, he's playing for an elite level team in his L.A. suburb and begins competing nationally. A mediocre student, he devotes himself totally to training and practicing for his planned career as a pro hockey player. All of this is a challenge for Conor's police officer dad, a widower who is now divorced from his second wife. To compound matters, Conor's Doberman, Sinbad, is diagnosed with cancer and will require a $7,000 treatment. Kadohata is a hockey mom, according to a back cover note, and she aptly describes the enormous sacrifice of money and time required for competition at Conor's level. But while hockey gives some structure to the narrative, the story ultimately lacks focus and sprawls over too many plotlines, including Dad's dissatisfaction with his police work, money troubles, the dog's illness, Conor's estranged grandparents, his training regimen and relationships with Eastern European coaches, his budding prayer life, a brain injury, and a wildfire that dominates the opening of the book and then ceases to be a plot element. Narrated by Conor, the story is a blizzard of facts and observations as if told by a tween unable to discern which events advance the plot and which ones distract from it. Descriptions of hockey play are lengthy and detailed. VERDICT The novel is wholesome and the tone positive, but it never achieves any narrative traction. Purchase only where youth hockey is extremely popular.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA


"A deeply poignant story about a boy sorting out his priorities."  - Starred review, Publishers Weekly

"Kadohata offers a vivid, memorable portrayal of a boy within his family, his sport, and his gradually broadening world." -
Starred review, Booklist

New York Times Book Review:  "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 Medal-winning 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."

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; Illustrated edition (February 6, 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1481446614
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1481446617
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 10 - 14 years
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 760L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 5 - 9
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 14.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 1.4 x 7.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 103 ratings

About the author

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As a child, Cynthia Kadohata’s biggest life goal was not to be a writer. It was to own a dog. Since then, she has had six rescue dogs as her best friends. And, she has been extremely fortunate to have mostly worked as a writer during her adult life. She is the author of ten children’s books, including Kira-Kira, winner of the Newbery Medal; The Thing About Luck, winner of the National Book Award; Weedflower, winner of the Jane Addams Peace Award; Cracker, winner of six state awards as voted on by kids; A Place to Belong, longlisted for the National Book Award; and the upcoming Saucy, about a piglet like millions of others, yet also TOTALLY herself.

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
103 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars My 11 yr old goalie and I both love this book.
Reviewed in Canada on August 11, 2019