Last Days of Summer
12 year old Joey Margolis lives with his mom and aunt on Coney Island and has a strained distant relationship with his dad. He gets bullied and beat up by neighborhood bad boys. He starts writing letters to baseball star Charlie Banks asking him to hit a home run for him because he has - one week he claims to have malaria, the next he claims he is the victim of the plague. Charlie writes him back and their correspondance starts out on shaky ground. However they soon write eachother often, even if sometimes still smart-alecky with eachother, and become friends. Charlie eventually comes to visit him and from then on both Charlie and Joey's lives change for the better just having eachother. Charlie becomes who Joey looks up to, a kind of father figure but not in a purposeful way, it is just how their relationship bonds them. Charlie takes Joey on the "road" with him as a batboy in the summer and Joey meets all Charlie's famous friends. It's Charlie that Joey goes to for advice with his first crush, and when Joey's dad refuses to come to his Bar Mitzvah, Charlie steps in and comes in his place. When Charlie goes away to fight in the war against Hitler, Joey sneaks to a different state to see him before he leaves. This book is written as letters, it's not a typical fiction book. We get all our info from letters, report cards, essays, notes, baseball stats, etc. It is a really wonderful book that manages to capture the illusion of childhood and how fast we grow out of it. Highly recommended.