Co-Authors / Illustrators
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Release Date
May 07, 2024
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Baseball is Elena Rueda’s entire life: She may be the only girl on her team, but she’s the best player and everyone knows it. Except . . . Elena has stopped having fun, and it’s time to leave the sport behind.

The problem is, Elena has no idea who she is without a bat in her hand. Can a summer spent with her brother's quirky friends in an empty sandlot that offers a world of possibility show Elena who she is—and teach her to love to play again?

Editor review

1 review
NOT Safe at Home!
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
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.
Good Points
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.

The illustrations have a bit of a manga feel to them, which young readers will adore. 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, but does reinforce her role as an evil villain and makes her immediately recognizable as Elena's adversary!

This is a good choice for readers who like sports, LARPing, and social activism, 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.
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