Zach is a typically self-absorbed 12-year-old who sees the world only as it relates to him.
He has been an only child who will soon have a baby brother, disrupting his life and demanding his parents’ attention. He has been the best pitcher on his baseball team but now has a rival for the position. Although he loves his elderly dog, Dingo cannot play and run anymore, so Zach agitates for a new puppy. As the baseball season starts, Zach and his best friend find themselves practicing alongside another boy, who is Zach’s competition for the starting pitcher position. A final school project focusing on community organizations sends Zach to an animal shelter, where he learns about their work with abused and abandoned cats and dogs. When his neighbor has a family crisis, Zach listens, empathizes, and takes action, finally coming to understand that he is not the center of the universe. Zach’s experiences at the animal shelter, while interesting and informative, are told in repetitive detail, as are the moment-to-moment actions of the baseball practices. Some of the characters are described in physical, racial, or ethnic terms, but Zach and his family are left uncued, reinforcing the white default. Although readers get very little insight into his changing thought processes, Zach is a charming boy who will win their hearts.
A base hit. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)