Review of Playing the Cards You’re Dealt, by Varian Johnson

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt

by Varian Johnson

Scholastic Press, 2021. 309 pages.
Review written December 29, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt is about ten-year-old Ant, who plans to compete in the big Spades tournament this year with his friend Jamal. He wants to redeem himself from last year’s disaster, and maybe impress his father as much as his older brother Aaron did when he won the tournament.

But there are complications. First, Ant and Jamal get beaten at Spades by a new girl who knows how to stack the deck. Then something’s going on at home. Should Ant keep his dad’s secrets? And when he needs a new partner, does Ant dare ask that cute girl?

This is all woven into a story about competition and friends and family and above all — dealing with trouble when those are in the cards you’re dealt.

Here’s a bit from the beginning:

When Ant was younger, he’d liked his nickname. After all, ants were kinda cool as far as insects went. Super strong for their size. Only now that everyone at school — even the girls — had shot up past him in height, it didn’t feel so good anymore. And no one, including his brother, seemed to want him to forget that.

This story has plenty of humor with the realistic conflict, and a kid you’re going to root for.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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