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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

Brian Piccolo is a highly personal look at the tragic loss of one of football’s rising young stars. The book is written in a straightforward style that makes it easy to follow for young adult readers. Morris focuses on the human side of Piccolo, emphasizing his warm personality as well as his football prowess.

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While the technical wording contained in the medical reports might cause some problems in understanding for younger readers, it might also stimulate an interest in learning more about cancer. The impersonality of the reports helps to distance readers from Piccolo’s cancer and allows them to focus on Piccolo as an ordinary human being, as it is Piccolo’s personality that constitutes the attractive force of the book. Nevertheless, the book’s emphasis on Piccolo’s cancer, and the honest manner in which his problems and surgeries are described, provides a good introduction to the realities of a deadly disease. This focus also points out to younger readers that anyone can contract cancer. At an age when many young people see themselves as immortal and indestructible, Brian Piccolo provides a sobering look at the mortality of everyone—even heroes.

Morris has chosen not to show Piccolo as a larger-than-life football star, as the narrative maintains a matter-of-fact tone that portrays him as a very normal person. The story of his life is made up of everyday anecdotes, and Piccolo is depicted as a likable young man with a keen sense of humor. His own writings about his family life emphasize his loving relationship with his wife and daughters and the important role that his family played by supporting Piccolo in everything that he attempted. This approach is a far more effective method of holding the reader’s attention than glorifying Piccolo’s interest in football.

By choosing to examine only select parts of Piccolo’s younger days, Morris has provided younger readers with a look at how possessing the drive and determination to accomplish a goal can bring success. The book itself is a result of Piccolo’s need to do something during the time that he was confined to the hospital. He often stated that he did not enjoy being idle, and the idea of writing appealed to him. He was inspired by the example of his friend Gale Sayers, who himself had written and published a book. Such views of Piccolo’s family and friends reveal their importance in his life and how much he cared for those around him.

Brian Piccolo is about one individual’s refusal to give in to disease. Piccolo’s main focus in life was never to give up or stop trying, even though he faced many obstacles and setbacks to his career. Even in the final days of his life, he was determined that he was going to finish his book. The focus on Brian Piccolo the individual, rather than on Brian Piccolo the football player, gives young readers an insight into the lives and careers of professional athletes. Through Piccolo, they become real people to the reader instead of cardboard cutouts.

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Critical Context