THE ATAMI DRAGONS by David Klass

THE ATAMI DRAGONS

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Dad, what the hell am I going to do in Japan?"" Author Klass currently teaches English at Atami High School, and this is the easy-to-take outcome. New Jersey highschooler Jerry Sanders--a.k.a. Boomer for his hitting and throwing, and Red for his hair--is expecting his summer team to be ""unstoppable"" when his recently widowered, despondent father, a professor of education, announces he's been offered a summer job in Japan: a needed change for him (as a psychiatrist has said) and a chance for ""what's left of the family""--which includes sister Carey, nine--""to come together."" Jerry is miserable at saying goodbye to his teammates, more miserable still at crying when he couldn't cry at his mother's funeral. And once in Japan, the beauty of seaside Atami, and the novelty of Japanese ways, go only so far: Carey, distraught before takeoff (""I want to stay with my mother!""), gets involved in a Japanese-American club for little girls, and brightens up; Dad sheepishly has a dinner date with a comely Japanese educator, and much in demand, perks up too. But what makes Japan for Jerry is coming upon the Atami High School team at batting practice, proving himself at bat and first base, and then, through his father's contacts (""vital. . . in this society""), getting on the team. (A course in English grammar turns him into a student.) The book isn't without coincidences--like Hawaiian-born second baseman Eddie Karo as English-speaking interpreter, best-buddy, and just like second-baseman Eddie Martinez back home, razzing-partner. (Thinks Jerry: ""Second basemen all over the world are nutty."") The one genuine clinker comes in the course of the family trek up Mount Fuji, proposed by Carey: a rigorous climb, in foul weather, that Jerry and Dad wax grimly humorous about. (They also marvel, rightly, at the endurance of Japanese oldsters.) But taking shelter from a typhoon, the Sanderses meet a Buddhist priest (ex of Chicago) who immediately intuits ""a painful [family ] change,"" and prescribes building a little stone shrine, as other pilgrims do, on the mountainside. (In the ensuing family discussion, the children learn that Mom and Dad met on a mountain, etc.) Nonetheless, new family bonds are lightly as well as somberly forged, and the bicultural baseball--climaxing in a frenzied/polite stadium competition, Japanese style--is first-rate all the way.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1984
Publisher: Scribners