Title: Morgan’s Got Game
Author: Ted Staunton & Bill Slavin
2014 – KidLit
The Story: Morgan and his friends used to play soccer tag at recess, but now all his friends are playing Dragon’s Gold on their new Robogamer Z7 handheld gaming systems. Morgan wants to play too, and when his parents finally relent, he joins his friends in the library at recess. But everything isn’t as it seems. Curtis thinks Aldeen is playing a fake Z7 and challenges her to a game. Will Morgan step in and help Aldeen or will she be humiliated in front of everyone?
The Opening Line: It’s recess.
Thoughts: Oh, the joy of finally getting that new toy that begets instant inclusion with everyone at school! I remember days spent on my elementary playground trading Pokemon cards or something similar, at least until they were banned on school grounds. To have that specific toy or game or device is to be part of something, which is so important for kids and teens. To not have that thing is to be excluded, isolated, and alone. I remember when the DS was released, that feeling of wanting one so badly. Of feeling left out because my family was poor and couldn’t afford all the newest toys. So in that aspect, this book was spot on.
I also really enjoyed the gaming aspect. I play a lot of video games, and while the game described seems more casual (think Candy Crush instead of The Elder Scrolls), it does capture the joy of finding a cheat, the frustration of getting bumped down a level, and the competitive spirit that gaming brings out in us. The novel also made a great point (from an adult point of view, at least) about the balance between technology and other forms of entertainment. At one point Morgan’s father sends the kids outside to play when they come over to enjoy an afternoon of Dragon’s Gold. While I’m an avid proponent of gaming and its benefits for all ages, there is a balance to be found, and I’m glad this book addressed it.
My final thought concerns the friendship between Aldeen and Morgan. We find out that Aldeen’s family is poor, and we are given hints that her Z7 may not actually be a functioning unit. But she is desperate to be part of the group, hence the ruse. While I ultimately disagree with her plot to swap her Z7 with Morgan’s and then password lock it without telling him, I think Morgan’s heart was in the right place as he tried to help her out.
As a simple, early reading novel for kids, this does the job admirably well. It’s relevant to a child’s life and interests and makes friendships and doing the right thing the center point of the plot. The language and topic are simple, yet compelling and ultimately very readable for kids. And most importantly in a novel written for young kids, it’s just a fun read about something that is a major part of a typical kid’s life in today’s society.