Fantastic Historical Baseball Title!
Things are rapidly changing during World War II for Maria. The farm her father rents and runs is undergoing some changes, her close knit Hispanic/Indian community is experiencing losses, and she is finally granted permission to play baseball... while wearing shorts! This isn't easy for her, but with the help of her teacher and coach, Maria learns the sport and overcomes the objections of her family and community to girls playing. There are grade appropriate struggles with friends and a younger brother that show that even during different time periods, some essential middle grade concerns stay the same.
Maria is a great character, and her reactions to situations are flawed but charming. She is supposed to watch her brother, but this interferes with practice. The solution? Clearly, bribe her brother! She lies to her mother about things, but feels guilty. She appreciates her parents' culture, but also doesn't feel it's completely her own.
There were two details about this time period that I found particularly interesting-- the Beckers, both Elizabeth and her father, were shown as pure meanness at the beginning of the book, but Maria does start to understand their motivations more. There are few treatments of German-Americans at this time, so it's a nice touch to include this. The other thing that was interesting was the fact that Maria's father couldn't own land, but his children, being born in the US, could.
Baseball might be the most "American" sport, but perhaps that is because so many different ethnic groups embrace it. Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh is a great addition to a list of multicultural basenall books that include Lorenzi's A Long Way Home (Pakistani), Volponi's Game Seven (Cuban), Lynch's. Gold Dust (Caribbean), Shang's The Way Home Looks Now (Chinese), Ritter's Fewnay Fever (Italian), Tooke's King of the Mound Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige (African American) and any number of books set during WWII that feature Japanese-Americans and baseball!