• Playing the Cards You're Dealt

  • By: Varian Johnson
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham
  • Length: 6 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Playing the Cards You're Dealt

By: Varian Johnson
Narrated by: Dion Graham
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Publisher's Summary

Secrets are always a gamble.

Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he's finally old enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant's friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, Ant only has one thing on his mind: how he'll measure up to his father's expectations at the card table.

Then Ant's best friend gets grounded, and he's forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn't exactly what he has in mind. She talks a whole lot of trash - way more than his old partner. Plus, he's not sure that his father wants him playing with a girl. But she's smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley - and keep his plans a secret.

Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart....

©2021 Varian Johnson (P)2021 Scholastic Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about Playing the Cards You're Dealt

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  • 08-13-22

Outstanding!!!!

I was hooked from the very beginning. I couldn’t stop listening to this book. The writing was on point and the terms and slang used were all too familiar. Brilliant work by the author and an amazing job by the reader. Highly recommend.

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A Great Family Road Trip Book

One liner: A Young Boy struggles with family issues and finding a shared love of cards with a female friend.

Content Warning: Contains descriptions of alcohol and drug use, gambling, family separation, bullying, and child abandonment. I don't usually provide content warnings because there are so many I could miss if I don't notice them and the inclusion of content warnings implies that all are included. These are the ones I noticed while reading with my son and not meant to be a comprehensive list. The author handles the discussions compassionately and from multiple viewpoints.

Ant comes from a long line of card players and loves playing with his friends. But during the tournament last year he choked and ran away, and everyone remembers. And keeps reminding him. When the new girl, Shirley, beats him and his buddy, he has respect for her talents (even though she might not have played honestly). When his friend gets grounded and has to miss the tournament, he asks her to be his partner. A fact the bullies at the school find as fodder. When he uncovers a secret his dad is keeping and everything at home turns upside down, he has to deal with old secrets coming to light and how to move forward. Shirley proves as good a friend as she is a card player.

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Fantastic read for young teens and young adults!

I really enjoyed this book. It took me back to my roots and touched on many social issues children face on a daily basis. I love this author.