Saturday, May 11, 2024

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Baseball!

Cartaya, Pablo and Rivas, Miguel Díaz (illus.). Curveball
May 7, 2024 by Disney Hyperion
E ARC Provided by Netgalley

Elena Rueda's mother Marissa is VERY invested in her daughter's baseball career, since she faced obstacles in her own. There's not time for fun, since Elena doesn't get to hang out after games with her teammates, and instead must train and attend camps to help her performance. Not only that, but if she blows a play on the field, her mother loses it publically. Elena's father and grandfather just want her to have fun, but have little say in the matter. Her brother Benji is more interested in casual Live Action Role Playing, and spends much of his time in a dinosaur costume. When Elena trips, falls, and injures her knee, she is secretly glad that she doesn't have to play baseball. Bored, she asks her brother about playing with him and his friends, who called themselves the Band Of Renegade Kinfolk, or BORKs. It takes a while for her to understand that there is no "winning" at LARPing; it is just a way to exercise her imagination and have fun, two things she has no practice at. Elena meets Toni, who is a bit mysterious, and who turns out to be the granddaughter of a wealthy local women who is living with her grandmother after the recent death of both of her parents. Eventually, Elena convinces the other LARPers to play "Borkball", and her competitive spirit comes to the fore. Her mother, a realtor, manages not only to sell the abandoned lot where the kids have been playing, but registers the group as a Little League team. This increasing pressure causes Elena to finally come clean to her mother and to try to find a way that she can enjoy sports and friends in a more childlike way.
Strengths: I'm always glad to see sports stories, and the idea of parental over involvement is certainly a reality for many children. The mother's issues with girls playing baseball rather than softball certainly would have been a huge consideration thirty years ago. I've not seen too many book addressing LARPing, so Benji and his friends enjoying themselves in a vacant field certainly is an appealing choice. I'm always glad to see Kids Doing Things, and this was certainly fun and fresh.
Weaknesses: The grandmother looks a little like Cruella deVille, and wears a black, Victorian style long dress. Considering most grandparents are now around my age, I can't imagine that a well to do business woman would dress this way. Just an odd choice. Also, killing off BOTH of Toni's parents?
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like Speed Racer style illustrations and want a story that carries the emotional weight of Morrison's Coming Up Short and Bishop's The Distance to Home but in the graphic novel format of Spangler's Fox Point's Own Gemma Hopper.

Sax, Sarah. Tryouts (Brinkley Yearbooks #2)
May 7, 2024 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Al has played baseball for years, but when she is old enough to play on her middle school team, there is some reluctance because she is a girl, at least from the athletic director. The new coach doesn't seem to mind, especially since he hopes to lead the team to its first victory in many years and is glad to have Al's expertise. Al's large family is supportive, and her mother, who is a long distance trucker, checks in often from the road. Al's friends are all trying new things; Milo, who loves to sew, attends art club, and helps revamp an old school mascot. The boys are the team have a few problems with Al, especially when there is a big television news interview with her, but in general just want to win their games. Will the team, accompanied by a new mascot, be able to recapture the glory of the 1970s successes?

This book is set in the same school as Sax's Picture Day and involves the same characters, making the graphic novel series similar to Libenson's Emmie and Friends books or Chmakova's Berrybrook Middle School collection. I enjoyed the author's note about the importance of trying out a variety of activities in middle school, and how the social aspects of sports teams are helpful even if kids aren't particularly successful at the sport. This is definitely true; my daughter enjoyed being on the cross country team even if she didn't necessarily enjoy RUNNING cross country.

Newman, Joshua. Out of Left Field
May 2, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

This was a very interesting, but decidedly Young Adult, look at how the author tried out and made his school baseball team even though he had no previous playing experience, and how the homophobia on the team affected him. This would be great for high school, but had a lot of f-words, on page sex, drinking, and a lot of negative language.

If you are looking for a middle grade book that combines sports with LGBTQIA+ issues, I would take a look at the novel A High Five For Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner. 

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