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Bullseye Bella

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Twelve-year-old Bella Kerr is a darts prodigy. And when she finds out that her little brother's special schooling is at risk because of lack of money, Bella secretly enters a darts competition at the local pub. The old boys' network of darts players are not happy - none more than the gold-suited charmer, Frankie Goldfinger Phillips, a five-time national champion - who will do anything to stop Bella qualifying for nationals.

288 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2019

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About the author

James T. Guthrie

2 books9 followers
James T Guthrie is the author of Bullseye Bella, winner of the 2018 Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon award and short-listed for the Best First Book Award at the 2019 New Zealand Children and Young Adult Book Awards.

The blog of his online alter-ego - Natalie Biz: International Librarian of Mystery - won the 2004 NZ Netguide Best Blog Award, was nominated for an international Bloggies Award, and made an honoree at the 2005 Webby Awards.

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5 stars
28 (53%)
4 stars
13 (25%)
3 stars
9 (17%)
2 stars
1 (1%)
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1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Bookrapt.
378 reviews17 followers
March 9, 2019
Bullseye Balla won the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for 2018. Author James Guthrie has hit the bullseye with his choice of heroine in a male-dominated sport. He has created characters who are believable, a family situation that is all too common, and combined these with a strong competitive element. There is humour tempered with moments of concern – over finances, over children being removed from their mother, and over the bullying that Bella experiences from older men.

Bella is a serious 12 year old, wise beyond her years. She has had to cope with her parents separating, she has to help in the house as her mother works shifts, and she has to help with her brother who has learning challenges.

Max, 8, is a challenge, but Bella and her mother have adjusted to his pirate stage and his special school is supportive. When Bella overhears a conversation that indicates that the costs for Max's schooling will become a challenge, she seizes an opportunity to make some money to help her mother.

The dart competitions, both local and national, provide plenty of opportunity for humour while at the same time exposing Bella to male chauvinism and unfair attempts to put her off her game. Her own nerves at performing in public create enough of a problem without her having to cope with first Carver and his drinking mates then Frankie 'Goldfinger' Phillips. Fortunately Bella encounters adult supporters at the pub, at school and at the finals, plus her mother, adults who come to believe in her skills at the game and her strength as a person.

Bella's responses to the 'baddies' of the story show her increasing maturity as she thinks through her responses to these much older men and finally outwits them. Her young brother's support has been crucial at times – and his trainee astronaut stage looks as if it will prove easier for Bella and her mother!

For readers from 8 to young teen, this is not just a book that girls will enjoy. Yes, there is a strong-willed but compassionate lead female, but the world of competitive darts is still a largely male domain and boys too will enjoy reading about Bella's challenges. And a lunch time darts club at school? Why not?

Reviewed by Chris Wright (Bookrapt)
Profile Image for Kim.
137 reviews7 followers
June 16, 2019
Wow ...this is so well done ....It was so realistic and contains positive messages ,yet it's not preachy ( so annoying) ....I loved that the characters are very well defined and the fact that this was a story about a close happy
family ...I enjoyed it even though I am well past the age it was aimed for as an audience .However when I win a book from Goodreads that is intended as a gift for a child in my family i read it to check that it contains appropriate content.This one is meant for my 8 year old goddaughter who reads past her grade level and it passes the the test.Although the main character is 12 I have no issue gifting it to her . The story is written intelligently with an amazing use of vocabulary without being wordy or heavy . I like it when they don't dummy down the plot or the dialogue for kids ....here they need to use their brainpower , that makes it perfect for my giftee who enjoys a challenge . Overall I find this an excellent choice for ambitious readers.
Profile Image for Suzanne Main.
Author 4 books15 followers
July 10, 2019
Bullseye Bella is a charming, fast-paced read full of colourful characters to love (and to love to hate). The mix of tense dart scenes and surrounding drama was just right. I enjoyed it immensely.
Profile Image for Rebekah Fraser.
126 reviews6 followers
June 13, 2019
Bella Kerr is a darts prodigy. When she finds out that her little brother’s special schooling is at risk due to a lack of money, she decides to help. Bella secretly enters a local dart competition at the local pub. Aged only 12, her entry doesn’t go down well with the old boys’ network of darts players. One competitor in particular will go to any length in order to stop Bella qualifying for the national competition.

Bullseye Bella is a humorous and action-packed story. Author James T Guthrie packs a lot into the easy read, without burdening younger readers with heavy lessons.

Bella is a strong, young female lead, with plenty of guts. It’s not all roses for her, and the story follow her anxiety and uncertainty to overcome the challenges she faces. As well as being young, she is passionate about a traditionally male-dominated sport. Darts features a lot of mathematics, so the character breaks a lot of stereotypes. Girls can play darts and do math.

Read full review here: https://www.nzbooklovers.co.nz/post/b...
Profile Image for Tom Moffatt.
Author 14 books18 followers
July 10, 2019
This is storytelling at its finest. Quirky, yet believable characters, page-turning plot, and darts. What a superb debut from James T. Guthrie. Can’t wait to see what he writes about in his next book. Snooker, perhaps?
Profile Image for Kathleen Dixon.
3,768 reviews61 followers
June 19, 2019
Well, I got really caught up in this book. Bella is a normal 12-year-old kid with a mother who has to work shifts so Bella has quite a bit of responsibility for her 8-year-old brother (father split years ago) - we all know families with stories similar to that. But where Bella is different to most of us is that she is prodigiously good at playing darts. Me, I'm lucky to hit the board! Bella, however, plays and plays and plays because she loves it. She has her Dad's excellent set of darts, and she spends hours in the basement where her brother Max (apologies - his name is Blackbeard) sometimes competes with her and helps her think of her arithmetic.

Things are never easy for single-parent families, and Bella overhears her mother on the phone being worried about paying the special school fees for Blackbeard. So when Bella and Blackbeard hear of the darts competition down at the local pub they decide she should enter.

If you've ever taken yourself into the world of pubs and male-dominated sports, you'll recognise all the issues Bella faces - sexism, spite, underhanded comments designed to put off the competitor, etc. The blokes really don't like it when a female 'gets above herself', and when that female is a kid! All these things are handled really well. Bella has a lovely manner - she gets caught up in worries and fears, but she learns from advice given her. And the excitement of the big matches is really well written.

An excellent read for kids aged from 8 to 14 (and any adults like me who thoroughly enjoy reading books written for kids).
Profile Image for Kathryn.
141 reviews37 followers
April 19, 2019
Fun and funny.
I love stories that have sport at their centre not necessarily because of the sport itself but because of the potential for a love of that sport to give disparate groups of people something in common - something to talk about, to bring people happily together who might not otherwise cross paths.
The local pub in this story is called the Gnome and Ferret and Bella's younger brother has been consistently dressing and presenting as a pirate for four years... the vocabulary and tone and pace and character development all combines for a very playful and satisfying read. I really hope the author has some more books in mind.
908 reviews
June 17, 2019
4.5 Stars. Bella’s a gem of a girl and it was a joy to read her story.

Eager to help her mom pay for her little brother’s special schooling, Bella secretly heads out to a local pub at night (somewhat daring when you’re only twelve and have your eight year old brother in tow). Bella enters into a darts tournament with men as her opponents and her eyes on the cash prize. That one decision to compete behind her mom’s back brings both good and bad with it, sabotage and accolades, the threat of Bella’s family being pulled apart while at the same time the possibility of it expanding, and test upon test of Bella’s nerve and heart.

Knowing nothing about darts, it did take me a moment to grasp how it works (there is helpfully a brief glossary of terms at the front of the book), but I quickly had a handle on it and came to really enjoy the competition scenes in the book. The things I love most about the sports I do watch, the tension, the strategy, seeing the athlete think their way through a problem, were so well-illustrated here, you’re right there with Bella through the highs and lows of it all, the anxiety and the exhilaration, reading it is much like the sensation of cheering on your favorite real life athlete or team. That said, I don’t think you need to be a sports fan at all to have fun with this or appreciate the stakes and the emotions, it’s like with Friday Night Lights, where you didn’t need to be into football to be into the television series.

It definitely helps that Bella is the easiest girl in the world to cheer for, she’s smart and persistent and your heart goes out to her when she struggles with her nerves, when she makes a crushing error, when you realize just how much weight she’s put onto her little shoulders.

Fortunately, Bella has a great, thoughtful mom in Jane, who is very much aware of needing to shift that weight off of her girl, and Jane also has this really enjoyable habit of supporting her kids in everything they do. I feel like a lot of parents in a lot of books (and in life), may have reacted differently and I am so glad that isn’t the character Jane turned out to be, I found her every bit as uplifting as her daughter.

Bella also has a sweet though never cloying bond with her little brother, and while the story doesn’t delve all that deep into his Asperger's, he was nonetheless, a delightful presence with his pirate persona and his constant cries of “huzzah!” and “blaggard!”

If you’re craving something humorous and heartfelt about a girl defying expectations, this is definitely worth reading.

I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway.
Profile Image for Kat.
198 reviews2 followers
March 26, 2020
I started reading this as my oldest is doing a class book study on it. I have finished it and he is still going. I really enjoyed it, having dabbled in business house darts before, I really flowed with it. I have even been updating my partner about what's been happening in the book. I heard rumour that there might be a film based on this book. I look forward to seeing what they do with it.
194 reviews
May 20, 2019
not overly delighted with this one.............
24 reviews
July 21, 2019
Great book! Excellent plot, really different. WIll read aloud to my class
Profile Image for Ginger Beer.
83 reviews
April 20, 2020
Fantastic, engaging and believable characters
The heroine's journey for middle grade readers
Profile Image for An.
33 reviews
September 3, 2021
I really enjoyed this book and its plots and twists and the satisfying ending. This was an amazing book and I suggest this to anyone who loves darts and a good read. 😊
Profile Image for Isa Rive.
379 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2023
Darts- a fantastic original subject for a novel. I enjoyed the writing and found Bella to be a resourceful, talented and likeable protagonist. It was fun to read about a world of which I knew nothing. However I really struggled with the graphic descriptions of Bella throwing up from nerves. It seems like a more realistic response of someone who had years of competitive pressure on them, rather than Bella who is new to the game. Is there a small risk of triggering an eating disorder? For this reason it got one star less from me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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