Friday, May 24, 2019

Batting Order

Blathery Note: I managed to make it through yesterday without crying. Creating a new map for the school using Google slides helped take my mind off missing students. Our final tally for books not returned or paid for was three, two 7th graders and one 8th grade who was going to try to pay electronically. There are also six books that walked away; Martin's In Harm's Way, Barnholdt's Balancing Act, Ziegler's The Audition, and the first three Coco Simon Cupcake Diaries. Grr!

Goodreads informs me that I am 32 books behind, so Monday (after Picky Reader visits and gets organized for being back in Cincinnati!) I need to start reading, plan a sweater, look at my fabric for quilts for My Very Own Blanket, and spend quality time cuddling with Sylvie! Until I get my most recent "spy injury" sorted, I won't be doing my usual morning workouts, so I will have lots of extra time!

Lupica, Mike. Batting Order
May 28th 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Matt Baker is not only struggling with being small and short, but he stutters as well. He loves baseball because he doesn't feel small when he plays, and he can usually work around his stutter. He is being raised by a fantastic, softball playing mother, his father having decamped to London when when Matt was very young. His team, the Astros, is doing pretty well with his coach, Sarge, but Matt starts to notice that one teammate, Ben, is struggling a bit. Ben's father is a mean, pushy baseball father who thinks that Ben should smash every ball that comes across the plate, but Matt knows Ben would benefit from being able to control his bat more. He works with Ben, but it's not always easy. Matt gets along a little better with José , who understands that sometimes Matt needs a little extra time to get out what he needs to say. Sarge eventually recruits Mrs. Baker to help coach the team, and she does a good job with the players. During one game when Sarge is held up in traffic, though, Ben clearly goes against Sarge's rules on a play. When Mrs. Baker benches him because of this, Ben's father is furious. He accuses Mrs. Baker of playing favorites, and is loud enough that the umpire kicks him off the field. In retaliation, he withdraws Ben from further games, even though the team really needs him. Mrs. Baker and Matt go to talk to the two, feeling that they are all involved in the same issue, and Ben's father eventually sees that it's okay to ask for help when single parenting becomes tough.
Strengths: There are a lot of fantasy novels with characters who feel small and slight-- they always save the world from destruction. It's rare to see such a character portrayed in a realistic fiction book, and I KNOW that it is a big concern among middle school students. Ben's father is a type that I have seen when coaching, and parents like him are not easy to deal with. There is a lot of important discussion about how the father feels that Ben should be "manly", even though Ben's mother left the family because the father exhibited a more toxic brand of masculinity. Mrs. Baker is fantastic as both a parent and a coach, and I loved when she gave up watching her television show with British accents to watch baseball with Matt instead. Matt's struggles with his speech are realistic but not overwrought, and the depiction of his meetings with a speech therapist are helpful. Ben's struggles to do what his father wants while still wanting to support his team are heart wrenching, and the solution to this is hard won but, again, realistic. Having José as one of Matt's friends was good, because he had his own issues with language. As always with Lupica's work, there are enough baseball details to engage readers who love the sport, and confuse me utterly!
Weaknesses: A lot of current baseball players are mentioned, and this will date the book in a few years. Also, more brutal editing would have made this snappier; Matt's worries about his speech do slow the plot a little more than they should have.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, although this could have had a better cover. I love the throwback look, but am not sure how my students will feel.

Ms. Yingling

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