Shang, Wendy Wan-Long. The Way Home Looks Now.
April 28th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Peter Lee's family loves baseball, cheering on the Taiwanese team when they come to a world championship in the early 1970s. When his older brother, Nelson, is killed in a car crash, however, his mother becomes so completely dysfunctional that she can't even get up off the couch to cook dinner, leaving Peter, his younger sister Elaine, and his father to fend for themselves. Peter is grieving for longer than necessary as well (and isn't given any help at home or at school) and feels as if everyone at school doesn't talk to him because of his misfortune. Eventually, he decides that if he can play baseball the way that Nelson did, perhaps he can entice his mother to go to a game, and she will be able to regain her joy in being outside. Since there are too many players, Peter's father offers to coach a team, even though Peter thinks that his baseball experience must be limited, based on the poor players that his father picks. There are some surprises in the line up, which are quite interesting, and everyone but Peter's mother seems to improve a bit. In the end, there may even be a little bit of hope for the woman.
Strengths: I loved The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, so was really looking forward to this one. Shang writes riveting prose, and her "women's libber" twist and 1970s setting is fantastic. There's enough baseball in this one that sports fans will pick it up.
Weaknesses: I was HUGELY disappointed in the ridiculous grief of the mother. It is not an option for parents to submerse themselves in their own grief about a dead child to the point where they can't take care of their living ones. No excuse, and this made me SO angry. I didn't just want to slap the mother, I wanted to punch her in the face. The father didn't help, either, letting the mother get away with it. Argh! Not okay, people. Not okay.
What I really think: Despite my disappointment, I will buy this one, because I never have enough baseball books, it's nicely multicultural, and has a great twist in it. But still! We could have avoided the idiotic mother altogether.
Tavares, Matt. Growing Up Pedro
February 10th 2015 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there
In this picture book biography, we see how long it can take for a dedicated and talented baseball player to make it to the big leagues. Brothers Pedro and Ramon love baseball, and see it as their way to better their lives. First, Ramon makes the Domican national team, and is then signed by the Dodgers. Pedro follows, but his journey is more difficult, since people underestimate his skills due to his small size. The brothers attempt to play for the same teams whenever possible, and manage to not only become successful, but to share that success with their family and their home town.
Baseball fans who know of these players will be glad to know their story, and I was fascinated by the timeline of events. It was interesting to see how long it took both men to "make it" on a ball team, and to see how low their starting salaries were, compared to what they eventually made! Emphasis is put on their Dominican background, and there are a few interesting facets about their lives there, although it would have been nice for US audiences to have a little more background on Dominican baseball.
The pictures will be appealing to elementary readers as well as reluctant middle schoolers, and the picture book format works well to convey the information in a straightforward manner. Notes and statistics at the end of the book will give readers wanting more information a good place to start.