A young coyote finds a home and adventure in a community of animals living near and in a stadium in this baseball-themed novel for middle school readers.
Before his surprise detour into Disney-like territory with mice playing baseball, Baynes (Bunt!, 2013) brings vivid authenticity to his realization of the life of a spirited coyote named Moth. The animal begins this tale as a “blind and helpless” newborn whose “whole world was the den.” Moth’s coyote universe expands as the curious, independent pup grows and leaves his family to find his own way in the wider world. The author compellingly evokes the coyote’s point of view as Moth experiences new sights and smells and soon ends up in human terrain, where he encounters the unfriendly two-legged creatures, their barking companions, and roaring metal machines that hurt his sensitive ears. Moth’s confusion and loneliness ring true, as do his playful efforts to be accepted into a community of animals (squirrels, gulls, rats, a motherly skunk) thriving near the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark. (One assumes that Moth doesn’t see his new neighbors as prey due to the plentiful supply of human food available for scavenging at the park.) Indeed, up to this point, Baynes has so engagingly grounded his nature-based fiction in reality, despite wisecracking gulls and “party animal” rats, that his introduction of an entirely new storyline—about mice who live inside the stadium, become baseball fans, and play the game themselves in uniforms of their own crafting—is a shift into cartoonish fantasy that seems to belong in another book entirely. When the two threads come together, their mismatched tenors are not resolved. But readers will undoubtedly find the conclusion, involving stereotypically villainous cats and a riotous rescue mission by Moth and his friends on the field and in the stands of the stadium, highly entertaining.
An enjoyable, if somewhat jarring, sports tale written with empathy and humor by a lively wordsmith.