Friday, June 24, 2022

The Hurricanes of Weakerville

Rylander, Chris. The Hurricanes of Weakerville
June 21st 2022 by Walden Pond Press 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Alex Weakerman loves his hometown in Iowa, and has deep family roots there. Not only did his family found the town, but his elderly grandfather "owns half of it", including the baseball team that is part of an independent league. He also owns Mustard Park, where they train. Even into his 80s, Ira has been taking care of the team along with a coach, but when his cancer advances and he passes away, Alex and his parents are dismayed to find out that the team has been losing money for years and his grandfather has gone into debt supporting the team. Not only that, but the team is now owned by his brother-in-law, Tex, who makes Alex the manager and says that he might be able to save the team if they can make the championships. Looking to his friend, Slips, for help, and recruiting Aliyah, the best baseball player in town who is also a rather cute classmate, Alex sets out to bring more people to the games, increase revenue, and win games. Alex loves baseball, and is great with statistics, even though he doesn't play well himself. Alex is overweight and unsure of himself, and experiences daily, small catastrophes of social interaction caused by what he calls "Flumpo". Grieving his grandfather in his own way and not wanting to lose Mustard Park (which Tex plans to sell) and his way of life in Weakerville, Alex battles to keep players, recruit new ones, and help the team get better at the game. There are plenty of obstacles in his way, including the problems a phenomenal player, Carla, has with her family's past, which may include local colorful personality, Gloves. Using his grandfather's notes, and trying to coach the team bring Alex closer to his grandfather. Will he be able to make his biggest fan proud of him?
Stregnths: I loved the Iowa setting, since I have family in towns about the size of Weakerville (Hello, Denison, Iowa!), and the depiction was spot on with chain stores taking local business and economic downturns affecting the population. While it was a bit of a stretch to put Alex in charge, it was done realistically, and he does have support, and Tex oversees things a bit. His friend Slips, who is from Poland, doesn't much care for baseball but does an excellent job supporting his friend, and it's good to see Aliyah bringing her skills to help as well. There's lots of baseball for those who want play-by-plays, and just enough history to add depth to the story. Alex's father's love of barbecue is a running joke, and it's interesting that he wasn't as interested in baseball. Ira's death is handled in a middle grade appropriate way, and Alex's handling of it seemed realistic. Slips is worried that Alex is bottling things up, but he's really just channeling his grief into the Hurricanes. This was a humorous and innovative baseball story. 
Weaknesses: There were a lot of things going on, many of which had to do with facets of baseball that I didn't understand. Are there independent leagues? What does this even mean? Had some of the tangential baseball information been replaced by some more inclusion of the more humorous elements, like Alex's father's love of barbecue, this would have wider appeal. I really thought the team and the town would be saved by the family recipe for mustard. That was a missed opportunity.
What I really think: This reminded me, oddly, of Paolo Bacigalupi's 2013 Zombie Baseball Beatdown or Will Weaver's 1995 Billy Baggs series, maybe because of the small town Iowa setting. Rylander is very popular in my library, so I will go ahead and purchase this. My question is always "To which students will I hand this book?" If I can't think of any current students, why am I purchasing the book? I can think of at least a dozen who would enjoy this, including one I wish I could hand it to right now! 

1 comment:

  1. I'd be lost int he baseball world too, but it's always good to find more books that appeal to boys!