This novel is a fictionalized version of a true story. In 1973 John Cappelletti from Penn State won the Heisman trophy, given to the outstanding college football player each year. When he received the award, he publicly "awarded" it to his little brother, Joey, then suffering from leukemia.

The story covers the two years prior to that event, a period when the relationship between the brothers deepened as John moved upward to fame and Joey's illness ran its slow course toward his eventual death in 1976. It provides many scenes from family life that show the range of ways a loving family of five children and a daughter-in-law collaborate in supporting Joey through hospital visits, remissions, a near-fatal coma, and increasing bouts of severe pain.


The story offers moving anecdotes of family life and brotherly affection that testify to the power of a supportive environment to combat the worst effects of illness. At times they all seem a little too sweet, and Joey a little too heroic. And at times the perspective seems rather too adult for a young adult novel; the narrator seeming to look benevolently down upon the heroism of young people rather than offering an inside perspective on their struggles. Still, as a true story, it is real enough to be inspiring and to remind readers what the quiet heroism of very sick children can look like. A useful resource for families of children with terminal illness.


Teleplay of the book by Jerry McNeely; starring Geraldine Page and directed by Lou Antonio. 96 min. Available on videotape.



Place Published

New York



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