Jeremiah has a lot of heart, which is a little ironic, since the heart that beats in his chest is a transplanted one.
For a sixth-grader, he’s very wise. When his adoptive dad, Walt, has to make a temporary move to a small, baseball-fixated Ohio town, it seems like the perfect opportunity for Jeremiah to make use of his can-do attitude to revive the nearly defunct middle school baseball team. He’s too sick to play, but he loves the game, and he’s an incredible coach. He also brings those same brightly inspiring skills to bear on his across-the-street neighbor, Franny, who’s suffering from a loss that involves her absent father. Meanwhile, the discovery that the championship high school baseball team’s members have been using steroids rocks the town after the pitcher dies from the illegal drug, possibly provided by his win-at-all-costs coach. Jeremiah’s voice is perfect: plucky, vulnerable, pragmatic, smart, and immensely endearing. Bauer masterfully manages the various plotlines: the inept middle school team’s evolving proficiency, good-hearted Walt’s bumbling efforts at dating, Franny’s gradual acceptance of her father’s abandonment, the town’s adjustment to a new reality, and especially the way Jeremiah’s uncertain health heartbreakingly colors all his efforts. Bauer writes her characters white as default, relying on naming conventions and description to indicate her characters of color.
An outstanding, tender exploration of courage and the true nature of heroism and, for good measure, a fine homage to America’s game, as well. (Fiction. 9-13)