In Elish's deft, funny story, an elderly polar bear's private coaching transforms Jason from reserve Little League infielder to team star. Jason, talented enough to be the only fourth grader on the Apaches, also has a unique ability to understand animal speech. He spends time at the zoo getting tips from Whitney, a bear who has become a baseball expert after three decades of studying sports pages fished from the trash. Cheered on by Whitney and other animal friends--including a gnu Shakespearean scholar and an excitable gorilla with a major-league fastball--Jason shines in the Apaches' first two play-off games. When the secret of Jason's success comes out, Whitney becomes a sensation. Jason wangles tickets for Whitney and the other animals to his last play-off game, where comedy and baseball action alike are fast and furious. Jason saves the game with a dramatic catch, but in the excitement Whitney collapses, wills his collection of baseball clippings, cards, and memorabilia to Jason, and then expires. Plot, characters, and baseball talk are all expertly handled here; the author's tongue is so firmly in cheek that it may require surgical removal. A delight.