Review Detail

 
Kids Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A

Baseball book and more

Noah Savino lives in the St. Louis neighborhood of the Hill, which is great, because he loves baseball. Well, he used to. After a devastating car accident, he is in a wheel chair and trying to figure out a new normal. This doesn't include Logan, his former best friend and teammate, who has been a jerk. When quirky new student Ruben moves to the area, calling himself "Double-Wide" because of his size, Noah is glad to have one person who doesn't know all of the details of his accident. It helps that Ruben is also very matter-of-fact (and has some slight autism spectrum characteristics) and just ASKS Noah about issues that have to do with his wheelchair bound state if he doesn't understand them. When another former friend, Alyssa, runs afoul of Logan and gets roped into competing against him in an upcoming pitching contest, Rben and Noah offer to help her. So does neighbor Mr. Riggieri, after they break his car windshield. Noah is not happy that his mother is starting to date Mr. Dillon, a neighbor who has a younger daughter Makayla. Mr. Dillon being friendly and helpful, and his mother being happy... just doesn't sit well with him, since he is still processing his father's death. His physical rehab isn't going very well because he's not working as hard as he should, a fact which his gym teacher, Mrs. Friendly, is able to point out to him. Along with learning how to catch from his wheelchair for the pitching contest, Noah has a plan to make Mr. Dillon look less appealing to his mother, and for Mr. Riggieri to reconcile with his children. Life goes on, and while Noah is generally moving forward with his life, there are some moments where he has to process his recent loss in order to keep making progress.

Good Points
If you want readers to gain empathy about people who are facing challenges they are not, it's not very effective to have a slow paced, lyrical novel that discusses and analyzes these matters. A lot of the readers are going to claim the book is boring and give up! If you throw in dog farts, practical jokes, some friend fighting, and a sport, readers will actually pay attention to the book and get information about what it would be like to be in a wheelchair, how you might feel if your father passed away, how to be friends with someone who is quirky, how to deal with a parent dating, and how fathers sometimes fall out with their children over issues like same sex marriage. That's all in this book, but in a way that is fun to read. I also adored the details about life in this very specific neighborhood. Noah's personality and coping mechanisms were brilliantly described. He doesn't wring his hands, but does admit he doesn't work hard enough. The reasons his friends quit talking to him are very realistic. The fact that sometimes happy things can make a grieving person inexplicably sad is a very true thing that I have not seen represented in middle grade literature. Very well done, Mr. John!

Can't wait to hand to students! Great cover-- wish we would see more like this, especially if girls are the main character. It's one thing to say boys should read books with girl protagonists-- it's another to get a 13 year old boy to check out an aggressively pink book with a girl on the cover. Librarians need a tiny bit of help in overthrowing cultural preconditioning.
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