10 September 2013, Little, Brown and Company
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Friends Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are on a Little League team with a coach, Corcoran, who doesn't understand baseball, and the annoying son, Sammy, of the Milrow Meat Solutions packing plant manager in their small Iowa town. Rabi's aunt is injured in India, and when his mother leaves him with Miguel's aunt and uncle because Rabi's father is working on an oil rig in North Dakota. Miguel's uncle works at the packing plant, and Miguel's parents were deported after his father posted a video of bad conditions at the plant. When Miguel's aunt and uncle are also rounded up by immigration, the boys take refuge at Rabi's house, but they have bigger problems. After playing ball in the nice and stinking park by the plant, they are attacked by a zombified Coach Corcoran! When the cops run the boys in, a shady lawyer gets them home and makes them sign nondisclosure agreements. They find out that workers are packing ZOMBIE cow meat, and try to get it out of the market and tell the police, bringing a zombie cow head with them for proof. When the meat is served at a ball game, the crowd turns into zombies, and the apocalypse begins!
Strengths: Baseball, a strong sense of place, a not one but two socially conscious agendas (immigration and food safety), multiethnic cast AND zombies. Wow. That took some thinking! I wasn't a huge fan of Ship Breaker, so my expectations for this were low, but I was really blown away by how serious issues were addressed in a way that will keep middle grade students reading. Rabi does address the challenges of being part Bengali in a rural, Midwest community, and there are lots of details about Mexican immigrants, but the main story is, of course, about the packing plant conditions that set off the zombie plague. I especially was glad that the boys, while adept at whacking zombies with baseball bats, tried very hard only to whack for self defense, and don't take any especial glee in the violence.
Weaknesses: We are not told how the zombie apocalypse if really dealt with-- yes, the boys kneecap a bunch, but do the people in the town all die? This would be good to know. We are told that Sammy's father will be in a cage moaning for brains, but if everyone affected ends up that way, and the plague affected six towns, that a lot of poor people who are affected with little explanation.
Last year, I had all kinds of trouble getting our five copies of our local paper delivered to the school through the Newspapers in Education program, but it was used constantly by teachers and students, so it was worth the effort. I was dismayed to find that this year, print subscriptions were being discontinued and that only digital copies would be provided.
The problem? We don't have computers in study halls for students to use to read the "paper". Plus, I am not certain if the best part of the newspaper for twelve-year-olds (the comics) is even available on line. Haven't looked very hard, but they might be there with a subscription.
I wrote a weary
No idea. Could be the result of that letter. Could be a mistake. I've gotten no indication from The Dispatch about a print subscription, but I will investigate so I don't get billed $1,200 for the full cost of the subscriptions. That's about a quarter of my total library budget. The NIE subscription usually ran about $150, which was affordable.
Will keep you updated on breaking news!