Tooke, Wes. King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige
21 February 2012, Simon and Schuster
In 1935, Nick is just getting out of the hospital after a year long bout with polio that has left him with a pronounced limp. He knows he's lucky, but having to give up his beloved baseball is devastating. His father is a catcher for Mr. Churchill's small team in Bismarck. Mr. Churchill has been very supportive of Nick during his illness, so Nick works at the ballpark doing anything that needs done. The excitement this year is that Satchel Paige has returned to pitch. He is a fabulous pitcher, but the big leagues won't hire him because he is black. He tells Nick that he shouldn't despair of pitching because of his weak leg, but that he should put his mind to it and try his best. Nick must also deal with his father, who is still reeling from the death of Nick's mother, and struggling with his own failing ability to play ball. The team travels and experiences a lot of racial prejudice as well as a lot of great baseball. Will things ever look up for for Nick, his father, and the team?
Strengths: Overwhelmingly wonderful sense of place and time. I know students don't like historical fiction as much as adults do, but this also had a great main character who was overcoming obstacles with excellent stoicism. The inclusion of Paige is wonderful. This is also a great length for boys who would rather be out playing baseball than reading. (150 pages)
Weaknesses: Nick doesn't get back to pitching until the very end. I would have liked to see his attempts earlier. Other than that, I really liked this!
Fehler, Gene. Forced Out.
1 January 2012, Darby Creek Publishing
Zack is on a travel baseball team, the Roadrunners, and really enjoys it, which is good, because his single mother has to make a lot of sacrifices in order for him to play. Zack is really good, as is his friend Nick. When Duncan joins the team, the boys don't think much of it until Duncan's poor playing leads to the team's loss. Then, they start to question whether Duncan got on the team because of his skills or the fact that his father is really wealthy and able to help fund the team's trips to a big tournament. Dustin is a good guy and realizes he isn't the greatest player, but he is trying. When Nick doesn't get playing time because of Dustin, and their losing streak continues, the boys have to figure out how to make everyone happy with the line up.
Strengths: This is part of the Travel Team series, but the books don't seem to be in any particular order. They are aimed at reluctant readers; this book is 114 pages. There was a good mix of baseball action and other problems, and I liked the depiction of team spirit.
Weaknesses: Writing a tiny bit choppy, but that is not unusual in high interest, low level books. The hardcovers are expensive ($21.00) and the paperback inexpensive ($6.20), but there doesn't seem to be a prebind. Drat.