The Hoop Kid from Elmdale Park
written by Teko Bernard
published by Elmdale Park Books
About the book – from Goodreads: The Hoop Kid from Elmdale Park, by Teko Bernard, is written to delight and challenge middle schoolers, ages 8 – 13.
All Bernard Jones wanted to do while staying with his grandparents for the summer in Elmdale, his father’s childhood hometown, was work on his basketball skills. When Bernard excitedly enters a team into the Annual Elmdale Park Basketball Tournament, he’s shocked to discover that the future of the park is at stake. The town of Elmdale hasn’t won the tournament in 20 years, and Victor Franco, a ruthless millionaire, is planning to shut down the annual tournament for good so that he can turn the historic Elmdale Park into a landfill for his own profit. It can all be stopped if Bernard and his team, the Elmdale Warriors, win the tournament this year. Can the courageous Bernard and his fun and wacky crew defeat their Oakdale rivals and save the historic Park?Bernard and Layla were sitting on a bench in front of the library and animatedly discussing their favorite movies when Layla suddenly groaned. “Oh, great…”
“What’s wrong?” Bernard asked, surprised by this sudden change in her demeanor.
“You’ll see.” Layla sighed and rolled her eyes.
Three guys their age swaggered up to them. They wore Oakdale High sports jackets, caps, and all the current basketball sportswear ranging from the most expensive shoes to T-shirts and sweatpants.
“There’s my baby! What’s up, Layla! You been waiting for me?” The lanky guy who asked the question stood about six feet five inches with attitude to match. The vain expression on his face clearly indicated he viewed himself as a ladies’ man.
Layla blatantly ignored him and refocused her attention on Bernard. “So what were we talking about?”
“Yeah, what were we talking about?” the tall one interrupted as he obnoxiously plopped down in the tiny space between Layla and Bernard.
“That’s right, Big Al, you’re the man!” hooted one of his buddies.
“No, he’s rude,” Layla retorted. “No one asked you to sit down!”
“Uh-uh, you got it wrong, babe…The dude next to me is no one. Hey, No One, thanks for watching my honey for me.”
Big Al turned his back on Bernard and slipped an arm around Layla.
Layla shoved his arm away. “I’m not your honey and his name is Bernard.”
“Oh, forgive me,” Big Al replied sarcastically. “Does Burr-nard work with you? I swear I hear some library books calling for him. Wait…Listen…”
Big Al cupped his hand over his ear. “Hey, dork—I mean, Burr-nard—we need you to come to the library pronto…so Al and Layla can have some private time together.”
His buddies cracked up as Big Al reattempted to slide his arm around Layla. Once again she slapped it away.
“No, we don’t work together. Bernard is my friend.”
Big Al still refused to look at him. “OK, Burr-nard. Maybe you’ve heard of me, and if you haven’t, you should have. I’m Allen Banks. That’s my boy Stephen ‘Smiley’ Drake.”
Smiley grinned, except his smile looked more like a snarl. And his crooked teeth made him look like a reject from a Dracula movie.
“The big dude is my homey Matthew McQuire. We call him ‘Biscuit.’”
Bernard didn’t say a word and clenched his jaw and stared at the ground.
“You know why we call him Biscuit? It’s because you can see by that three-hundred-pound model’s figure he loves to eat. He’s that way on the basketball court too. If you don’t feed him the ball…man…he gets downright maaaaad! And like the Hulk, you don’t want to be near him when he gets angry!”
“Yeah. And you know what, dawg? I’m kinda hungry right now. What you got in that bag, short stuff?”
It was more of a demand than a question. Biscuit lumbered menacingly toward Bernard’s backpack.
“Don’t touch my bag!”
Something in the ominous timbre of Bernard’s voice coupled with the granite stare made Biscuit stop dead in his tracks and actually step back. Big Al turned and acknowledged Bernard for the first time. Even Layla was stunned but seemed to marvel at the resolute tone in Bernard’s voice.
Big Al raised his hands in mock surrender. “My bad, Burr-nard. We didn’t mean to mess with your bag. I had no idea you were such a sensitive fella.”
Biscuit pointed at the backpack. “Hey, Big Al, I think I see a basketball poking out of dude’s bag.”
“Whaaaaat? Are you serious?” Big Al adjusted his cap and jumped up from the bench. “Yep, I see a basketball too. Well now, fellas…this discussion has taken on a whole new life.”
Layla pleaded, “Leave him alone, Al, and just go. He’s not bothering you guys.”
“Oh no, Layla. This is getting good.”
Big Al paced back and forth like a prosecuting attorney. “So what do you know about basketball, Mr. Burr-nard?”
“Enough to hurt your feelings,” Bernard responded icily, his eyes locked on Al’s.
Big Al tried to laugh it off.
“My, my…Look at ol’ Burr-nard jumping bad. You know, I ain’t ever seen you around here. Where you from, Burr-nard?”
Bernard let the question dangle in the air for a few seconds. “Right now I’m living in Elmdale.”
“Elmdale?” Smiley snorted. “That explains the funky smell in the air. I thought a sewer backed up.”
“It’s the same way you’ll be backing up if you ever get the nerve to face me one-on-one on a basketball court.”
Smiley’s snaggle-toothed grin disappeared as he balled his fist and made a move toward Bernard. “Hey, chump, we can go at it right now…”
Big Al held him back. “Uh-uh, Smiley. I like trash talk. Tell you what, Burr-nard, we’ll be defending our championship basketball title at the Elmdale Summer Jam soon. Since Elmdale ain’t had a team in years, I’d like to invite you to play some horse with us during our warm-ups before the game. And, if you’re real nice and bring your ball, we’ll generously autograph it for you after our game.”
They howled so loud with laughter that they almost didn’t hear Bernard fire back. “You may not be in the mood once we beat you.”
Big Al wiped away the tears of laughter as his eyes narrowed. “What did you just say? Are you telling us Elmdale is going to be in the tournament and led by miniyou?”
Bernard stared blankly at him.
Big Al clapped his hands and then rubbed them together. “Man, I can’t wait! We’ll be looking for you and the Elm-duds. What’s your last name, Burr-nard?”
“Jones? You’re not related to Maurice Jones, are you?” Biscuit inquired, still holding his belly and snickering.
“He’s my cousin.”
Biscuit’s eyes deadened and he stopped laughing. “Do me a favor. Tell Mo I said hello.”
Big Al patted Biscuit on the back. “Come on, y’all. Let’s take this party elsewhere.” He doffed his cap and blew Layla a kiss. “See you, girl of my dreams.”
They strutted down the street, cackles of laughter trailing behind them.
“What idiots! I’m really sorry, Bernard.”
Layla affectionately rubbed his shoulder. Ordinarily Bernard would have melted at her touch, but the only thing on his mind right now was doing battle with Oakdale.
As a kid growing up—much like my book’s protagonist Bernard Jones—I always loved two things: reading books and playing basketball. My two favorite places were the basketball court and the library. Both of these places and activities brought me tremendous joy and pleasure while also, unbeknownst to me was enriching my life. Reading was exercising my mind and imagination, while playing basketball was keeping me physically and socially active.
However, by the time I reached Middle School and then High School, my involvement in team sports began to monopolize my time. So consumed with improving and getting better at Basketball, I had almost totally lost site of the benefits and pleasure that books had always provided. Sadly, this pattern of more basketball, less reading would continue until the Fall of my Freshman year in college when I suffered a back injury that ended my college basketball career. Two life-changing things occurred after this. I started re-directing my intentions and focus towards things other than Basketball for the first time in many years. And I began reading more and re-discovered the pleasure and life changing effects that reading books provided. Reading has helped me so much throughout my life, that I felt compelled to create the Elmdale Park kid’s brand and book series.
The idea was to help advocate the importance of a healthy, life-long, balanced diet of reading books and physical exercise. So kids who love sports are also benefiting from the magic of reading and kids who love to read are benefiting from the thrill of getting out there to play and being physically active.
Elmdale Park’s mission is to entertain, educate and encourage kids. We want to give them access to books about the sports and activities that they love. We deal with a variety of themes including: courage, friendship, sportsmanship and teamwork to name a few. Elmdale Park Books reach out to a broad spectrum of kids from all backgrounds and experiences and cover a wide variety of stories, subjects and activities.
About the author: For over a decade, Teko Bernard worked as a creative director and graphic designer in the sportswear and sports events industries where he developed brand identities, marketing communications and apparel graphics for nationally recognized brands and events like ESPN, X Games, NCAA, and the BCS. After an exciting career in the sportswear and sports event market, Teko set out to pursue his lifelong dream of creating the original kid’s entertainment brand and cartoon property that is Elmdale Park. Elmdale Park currently produces a unique brand of middle grade chapter books and activewear. The Hoop Kid from Elmdale Park is the debut book from the brand. Teko lives and operates the company from Overland Park, KS, and collaborates with a team of seasoned writers, illustrators, editors, and designers who all share the same passion for kids books, cartoons, sports, and outdoor recreation. When he’s not designing or developing new story concepts for Elmdale Park, Teko is usually reading, listening to music, enjoying the outdoors or being an amateur movie critic.