Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Out Standing In My Field by Patrick Jennings

This is a funny-sad baseball book for upper elementary school readers. Continuing in my quest to find good baseball themed books to pass on to my son, I picked this one off the shelf at work. The book tells the story of Tyrus Cobb Cutter, a boy whose father played one day in the majors and never got over it. The unique angle this book takes versus other baseball books is that our hero really stinks at the game. Ty's looking to tie the league record for highest number of errors in a season, and his batting average hovers somewhere below .100. Everyone knows Ty stinks but his dad just won't let Ty be the bench warmer he was born to be. Meanwhile sister Daisy has all the talent in the world, but steadfastly refuses to play for her father. Told wryly and memorably in the first person by the funny, baseball loving Ty, this book captures both the magic and the heartache of baseball, and the sheer awfulness that can come from being the son of a monster of a children's sports coach. I would probably not offer this book to under 11 or 10 year olds, as there is some reference to Ty's father having a drinking problem, but for boys who like baseball and who are sick of reading books about miracle kids, this could be a real winner.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

A 13 year old boy reeling from the divorce of his parents manages to crash land the plane he is taking to visit his father in the far northern Canadian oil fields into a small lake in the wilderness after the pilot dies of a heart attack. The boy proceeds to survive in the wilderness for 55 days on his ingenuity and using the small belt hatchet his mother gave him before he climbed on the plane. A well-executed survival story long on action and self-reliance and self-actualization, this book would likely have enormous appeal for boys from about age 10 to 14. Younger readers with strong skills could also probably tackle the book, but references to the family breaking up over possible infidelity on the part of the mother may give some parents pause, but the book as a whole is definitely recommended strongly for school and public libraries. This was a Newbery Honor book in 1988.