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by John H. Ritter

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: April 13th, 1998
ISBN: 0-399-23185-4
Publisher: Philomel

Writing in a vivid, suspenseful style, Ritter debuts with the story of a boy coming into his own as “a thinking man.” In 1921, when some religious folk believe that the left side of a person is the domain of the devil—“contrary to God”—Luke Bledsoe, 13, who is left-handed, is forced to use his right hand or suffer his preacher father’s harsh words and physical abuse. When his family moves to Ohio, Luke accidentally finds out that he has the ability to become an incredible southpaw pitcher, and is tempted by the game his father calls “the devil’s playground.” With the encouragement of his black-sheep Uncle Micah, Luke explores his talent and gathers the courage to stand up to his father’s irrational rules and abuse. Some outstanding scenes include Luke’s thrilling first ride on a steamboat, the harrowing punishment he receives when his father finds him out, and his hilarious and life-altering first professional ballgame, featuring lefty Babe Ruth at bat. Luke’s emotions are meticulously conveyed, and Ritter avoids making the boy’s father a one-dimensional villain, showing his troubled, conflicted psychological make-up. No ordinary baseball book, this is a rare first novel. (Fiction. 12-15)