Title: Curve Ball
Author: John Danakas
[Disclaimer: I was provided a free review copy of the book (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest and unbiased review via my blog. Review is also published at Goodreads and Amazon. I was given no compensation for my review and I don't even get to keep the book, but the FCC thinks it is important for you to know that this review is free of all subterfuge. Enjoy!]
This is another in a series of books published by Lorimer that I have read that feature sports themes. Given that I am a huge fan of baseball, and have been all my life, I have to say that I enjoyed this book very much. Of course 'curve ball' is the working metaphor as young Tommy Poulos navigates through a summer with his uncle Nick, a new Little League baseball team, a mean spirited bully named Jeff, and a budding friendship with Kelly, the only girl on the baseball team.
I like that this book is set in the world of Little League baseball. I coached for many years and it was fun to reminisce on all those times when games were on the line and tough Little League coaching decisions had to be made. It was fun to relive the crack of the bat and remember that Little League baseball is about the local, neighborhood teams and not so much about all that ESPN nonsense that most kids never experience.
I also like that for the first time in a long time I have read a children's book where the male adult characters are put in a positive light. Uncle Nick, while a bit sad about some of the realities of life, is a genuine and positive male role model for young Tommy. Given that most of the children's books I have read lately have featured less than stellar male role models–if they were even present–this was an excellent change of pace. I applaud the author for having the courage to buck the trend of making male characters either terrible humans or absent altogether.
I'll be terribly frank about my next point: I'm not sure how I feel about the Kelly character. Yes, I get that we live in a remarkably, wonderfully diverse world where girls join boys in playing on boys' teams. Sadly, however, we do not live in a world where boys are permitted to join girls in playing on girls' teams. It's an awful double standard in the USA and Canada. So I am indifferent about the Kelly character's presence in the book. She could have fulfilled her 'cheerleader' for Tommy purpose in the book without being a member of the baseball team. That's just my opinion.
All in all this was a good story. I have read several really good stories from Lorimer authors now and I seem always to be surprised by one thing or another. Weaving Tommy's baseball trajectory into his uncle Nick's business trajectory was a nice move and helps us understand that adults and children face curve balls in life and that we all need to find ways to overcome them. I am pleased that the author allowed Tommy to deal with differences he had with another player not through lowering himself but by rising up and simply being a good ball player. That is, he proved his skill and worth through working hard.
This is a good story, if a little predictable, that I recommend and would keep in my own classroom.