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Sidetracked Book CoverWhat the Book is About:

Between his Attention Deficit Disorder and other various phobias, seventh grader Joseph Friedman’s ability to achieve academic and social success in middle school is compromised, to say the least. When his resource room teacher encourages him to sign up for track, he’s certain that the experience will be traumatic and temporary. But as Joseph becomes part of the team and works on improving his own personal record, he soon learns that no matter how terrible a runner you are, you can always improve. Joseph’s self-deprecating and earnest voice makes this well-crafted book a delightful and heartwarming choice for readers of all ages. Kids will be inspired to root for Joseph and to find the best within themselves.   

Jewish Content and Values

  • Joseph discusses with a friend that others expect him to be smart just because he’s Jewish. 
  • Joseph’s grandfather often inserts colorful Yiddish words (defined within the text) into his conversations. 
  • Hazorim B’dima B’rina Yikziru (psalms 126) is literally translated as “He who sows in tears will reap in joy.” This refers to the Jewish philosophy that values effort and process far more than results; every person is encouraged to try their best to follow in the way of the Torah and reach their own “personal record.”

Positive Role Models

  • Joseph’s character develops beautifully throughout the course of the story. He develops his running skill through hard work and determination and keeps trying his best despite his personal limitations. He stands up for his friend Heather by cleverly exposing the bully who elbowed her on the track, and he graciously declines the opportunity to gloat when the boy who bullied him is finally humbled. 
  • Heather is a loyal friend who encourages Joseph to continue to compete and reach his personal goals. She learns to communicate with her mother and resolve her family issues in a positive and loving way. 
  • Coach T. is an upbeat, encouraging figure who gently pushes her students to achieve their best in the resource room and on the track. As a  coach who accepts each player’s limitations and doesn’t demand victory at all costs for her team, she breaks stereotypes in the most positive of ways.  

Content Advisory


Talk it Over

Joseph likens middle school to The Running of the Bulls, an annual event in Pamplona, Spain, where bulls are released to run through a town. Why do you think he feels that way about school? Have you ever felt that way about your school?    

More for You

The first documented marathon runner was, in fact, Jewish. Identified only as “a man from Binyamin,” the Book of Samuel recounts the story of the runner who raced from the Battle of Afek to the capital at Shiloh to report to the High Priest, Eli,  the massive losses sustained in the battle between Israel and the Philistines. Upon hearing that the Ark of the Covenant was in the hands of the Philistine enemy and that his two sons, Hophni and Phineas, had died defending it, Eli fell from his chair, broke his neck, and died.  

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