Young softball players get lessons in sportsmanship in the third book in Brotherton’s (Margie Makes A Difference, 2017, etc.) middle-grade series.
This latest installment about the adventures of the Lady Tigers under-14 softball team follows the story of third baseman Nicole Carter. She loves everything about the team until an aggressive, ambitious new player, Diana Shumaker, shows up at practice. Diana’s family moved to town so that Diana could play in a more challenging league, and her competitive nature—and that of her mother, a former softball player—is evident from her first practice. Her attempts to show up the other players quickly erode team morale (“The friendly banter that was so common at the Lady Tigers’s practices was absent as the girls went through the throwing motions with a sort of dreary rhythm”), and matters come to a head when the Tigers play the Rockets, a team known for their poor sportsmanship. The Tigers’ coaches are aware of Diana’s bad influence, but Nicole continues to try to be friends with the new girl, hoping that their shared love of the sport will triumph over their individual ambitions. Brotherton has a solid grasp of softball mechanics, and the book has no shortage of ballplaying scenes that will capture athletic readers’ imaginations (“The runner conducted a beautiful slide-by, her feet sliding behind the bag to avoid the tag as she reached back with her arm to make contact”). At the same time, however, the prose is frequently simple and repetitive (“ ‘Good thing it was only a dream,’ Tammy said. ‘Thanks. Now I don’t feel so silly about my bunt dream,’ Nicole said”). There’s also little subtlety in the book’s determined moralizing: “Nicole marveled at the difference between the sportsmanship between this game and the last one against the Rockets. This was the softball she enjoyed the most.” That said, this book will still appeal to many young readers looking for action-oriented sports stories.
An unevenly written, message-heavy story of sports and friendship.