Austin Gutwein says, “If AIDS is contagious and brings death, shouldn’t hope be contagious and bring life?” Take Your Best Shot is a message of Christian hope, that anyone can use his passion to help others.
It all starts with nine year old Austin’s watching a World Vision video that pricks his heart and moves him to act. He begins shooting basketball to raise money for African AIDS orphans and eventually founds Hoops of Hope. It’s the same formula Austin encourages his reader to follow:
- Find a need.
- Use your passion to meet it.
I wrongly assumed the book would rely heavily on sports analogies. Actually, the book is not about basketball or even about African orphans. Austin does a fabulous job of keeping his Hoops of Hope story the primary illustration of his larger point – finding a need and meeting it with your passion. He’s not showing off but showing how – how God worked through his life. The point comes through clearly, and Austin comes off as a very like-able and humble kid.
Throughout the book, Austin shares his reflections on Bible scripture, his personal anecdotes, and stories of his trips to Africa. It’s all woven together in a rather non-linear fashion that reminds me of how you read a website, clicking back and forth. There is a cohesive whole, but it jumps around in the storytelling in a style I found a tad distracting.
Each chapter ends with questions to consider, Scripture to read, and something to do (a website to visit, for example). Take Your Best Shot makes for a good parent-tween evening read (that’s what we did) or serves as a good starting point for a teen’s personal devotional.
I loved the emphasis on the faith of children to attempt “impossible” things, and I think this book has an important message. Children do not have to wait until they grow up to make a difference. They can act now.
The book is distinctly Christian, but not evangelistic. You will not find a prayer to accept Christ or see Austin sharing the gospel with African children. The helping done in this book is all humanitarian – food, clothing, education, and medicine.
Take Your Best Shot is classified as juvenile nonfiction, but be aware that because the book refers to helping AIDS orphans, there are some tough issues here. If your children are not ready to learn about AIDS, this is not the book for you. One of the testimonials in the book is about a girl in Nepal who got AIDS as a result of forced prostitution. (We skipped that section with our 10 year old daughter.) My husband read this book outloud to Sprite so that he would be there to discuss both the theology as well as the tough world realities. As you would with any book, preview before handing it over to a child.
I received a free copy of this book in return for my honest review. (I thought that was a killer deal for someone who pays an extra $5 per book at Amazon just for shipping!)