THE DESPERADO WHO STOLE BASEBALL

This prequel to The Boy Who Saved Baseball (2003) teeters between preposterous and plausible as Ritter splashes his wit on a baseball tale that takes place in a Reconstruction-era mining town in the San Diego hills. Jack Dillon meets up with Billy the Kid on his way to Dillontown, which is renowned for its championship baseball. Jack hopes to have the inside track, as it’s his presumed uncle who founded the town. That John Dillon is a black man who has just issued a high-stakes challenge to the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings doesn’t deter Jack, a determined and optimistic kid. That John would accept this hitherto-unknown white nephew without question, that environmental consciousness could stand in the way of a gold mine and that Billy the Kid could become a whiz baseball player in a few days are just some of the examples of the fast and loose playing with history that Ritter asks readers to accept. However, fans of baseball will chortle all the way through every impossible moment. (Historical fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-24664-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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TANGERINE

A legally blind seventh-grader with clearer vision than most wins acceptance in a new Florida school as his football-hero older brother self-destructs in this absorbing, multi-stranded debut. Paul's thick lenses don't keep him from being a first-rate soccer goalie, but they do make him, willy-nilly, a "handicapped" student and thus, according to his new coach, ineligible to play. After a giant sinkhole swallows much of his ramshackle school, Paul is able to transfer to another school where, with some parental collusion, he can keep his legal status a secret. It turns out to be a rough place, where "minorities are in the majority," but Paul fits himself in, playing on the superb soccer team (as a substitute for one of the female stars of the group) and pitching in when a freeze threatens the citrus groves. Bloor fills in the setting with authority and broad irony: In Tangerine County, Florida, groves are being replaced by poorly designed housing developments through which drift clouds of mosquitoes and smoke from unquenchable "muck fires." Football is so big that not even the death of a player struck by lightning during practice gets in the way of NFL dreams; no one, including Paul's parents, sees how vicious and amoral his brother, Erik, is off the field. Smart, adaptable, and anchored by a strong sense of self-worth, Paul makes a memorable protagonist in a cast of vividly drawn characters; multiple yet taut plotlines lead to a series of gripping climaxes and revelations. Readers are going to want more from this author. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201246-X

Page Count: 293

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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