#870 – The Little Linebacker Book Tour by Stephan Tulloch, Maria Dismondy, and Heather Heyworth

little linebacker cover The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination
Written by Stephan Tulloch and Maria Dismondy
Illustrated by Heather Heyworth
Cardinal Rule Press  6/01/2016
32 pages Ages 6—9

“Have you ever wanted something so much, but it seemed impossible? That’s how it was for Stephen growing up. The odds were against him when all he ever wanted to do was play football. Read to find out what happens when a young boy decides to never say never!” [back cover]

The Story
Young Stephen loves football. With his first Little League Football practice finished, Stephen finds himself unable to wait for the next practice. He is, “rarin’ to go.” Stephen’s impatience causes him to feel unhappy. Mom offers a bit of advice and Stephen makes it through the season and many more.

tll-girlsuitedupYears pass. Stephen plays football through the elementary, middle, high school, and college levels. At each level, he faces problems, which could have kept him from playing football. Stephen ultimately succeeds, finding help and advice from his mom, an elderly gentleman, and his friends. “A few years later . . .” Stephen sits on a bench in a college football locker either pre-game or halftime, listening to a few scouts talk about his National Football League prospects.

“He’s undersized and won’t make it in the pros.” Stephen felt like “a ton of bricks” had smacked him, until . . . he notices an inspirational poster.


With his mom in the stands, Stephen makes an interception, taking it into the end zone for a touchdown! He plays a great game, named the game’s star player, and soon finds his dreams have come true: he plays in the NFL, all thanks to those who inspired, helped, and pushed him along the way.

The Little Linebacker, based on real professional football player, and co-author, Stephen Tulloch’s real life, will astound you with its depth. Tulloch’s determination, beginning with neighborhood pickup games to playing professionally in the NFL, Tulloch’s story is inspirational. Young boys who dream of playing in the NFL will enjoy reading about Tulloch’s young life, possibly the reader’s age. In the above spread, I loved seeing a girl wearing football gear (Little League years). A nice touch from illustrator Heyworth. I also love the fine details, such as Mom’s hair in the spread below.

momshairHeather Heyworth’s bright illustrations play out Tulloch’s youth, a world containing people of different genders, ages, and races. Stephen, nicely drawn, ages from elementary school student to NFL player, yet he looks similar throughout, regardless of his age. Each spread sparkles with football details, which are spot-on. It is a shame Heyworth was not given room to tell the story her way, as is custom for picture books.

The Little Linebacker¸ while an interesting look at one pro’s journey to the NFL—which makes this life seem possible for boys who so desire—the story is plagued with many picture book no-no’s. The text is much too long and detailed. The co-authors tell us everything that happened. Images are not necessary, though meant to enhance a 500 to 1000-word picture book story. The illustrator had no leeway of her own.

Immediately there is an inconsistency (one of a few). Stephen asks the coach when next practice is and Coach replies,

“We only play once a week.” Stephen walked away, kicking the dirt. He was “rarin’ to go” and didn’t want to wait an entire week until his next practice.”

“Play” implies, in sports, a game against an opponent. “Practice” is just that, a practice session. Unfortunately, there is more. Clichés riddle the text (no less than 11). Worse, within the span of 16 spreads, Stephen ages from an elementary student of maybe six or seven years, to a college junior or senior age twenty or twenty-one—on the cusp of entering his professional career. Each new period (3) of Stephen’s life, viewed in regards to school, begins “A few years later . . .” with its related problems and clichéd advice.


Much of the story reads like it were Stephen Tulloch’s memoir, rather than a children’s book. The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination does highlight his determination and perseverance. Parents, be prepare to, explain clichés to your child. If read at bedtime, the story will take longer to complete and is best for ages six to nine, rather than age 4 to 8. Younger children may find the clichés and time span (approximately 15-16 years), challenging.

“Tullyo’s Tips for Kids” (also excellent for life in general), The Stephen Tulloch Foundation and Operation 55 are highlighted, and short biographies for co-authors Tulloch and Dismondy, and artist Heather Heyworth make up the back matter.

The Little Linebacker could make a truly inspirational chapter, or, if expanded even further, middle grade book. Regardless of genre, a good story editor needs to shape up the story, making it more kid-friendly. The story has much promise and I would love to read it either as an edited picture book or a chapter  book.  Kids interested in football, especially those who know who Stephen Tulloch is, will enjoy The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination.

THE LITTLE LINEBACKER: A STORY OF DETERMINATION. Text copyright © 2016 by Stephan Tulloch and Maria Dismondy. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Heather Heyworth. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Cardinal Rule Press, Dearborn Heights MI.

AmazonBook DepositoryIndie Books.


Find The Little Linebacker on Goodreads HERE.
Reader’s Guide and Coloring Pages found HERE.
Article by Detroit Lions is HERE.

Stephan Tulloch:  http://www.tulloch55.com/
Follow on Twitter          @stephentulloch

Maria Dismondy:  http://mariadismondy.com/
Follow on Twitter          @mariadismondy

Heather Heyworth:  http://heatherheyworth.blogspot.com/
Follow on Twitter          @HeyworthHeather

Cardinal Rule Press:  http://cardinalrulepress.com/
Follow on Twitter

Cardinal Rule Press is an imprint of Maria Dismondy, Inc.

Book Tour Next Up:  
Rachel A Tall Drink of Water

Follow the Book Tour HERE.   #operation55

Reprinted with permission from THE LITTLE LINEBACKER © 2016 by Stephan Tulloch and Maria Dismondy, Cardinal Rule Press, an imprint of Maria Dismondy, Inc., Illustrations © 2016 by Heather Heyworth.

Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination by Stephan Tulloch and Maria Dismondy & Heather Heyworth, and received from Cardinal Rule Press, (an imprint of Maria Dismondy, Inc.), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Little Linebacker: A Story of Determination
Written by Stephan Tulloch and Maria Dismandy
Illustrated by Heather Heyworth
Cardinal Rule Press 6/01/2016

readers guide.


Reader’s Guide and Coloring Pages found HERE.

3 thoughts on “#870 – The Little Linebacker Book Tour by Stephan Tulloch, Maria Dismondy, and Heather Heyworth

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