A young man grows up in the Dominican Republic with ambitions to play baseball while a young girl in Minnesota finds the world both bigger and more encouraging when she becomes his fan.
Brown-skinned Rafael falls in love with baseball in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris. He plays in the neighborhood with a sock-wrapped stone for a ball and a stick for a bat and later in the nearby campo. Scaletta offers glimpses of the risks that baseball can bring in the Dominican Republic, where boys and struggling families hitch wagons to far-off stars. Twelve-year-old Maya’s white, middle-class Twin Cities family includes teen sister Grace, an aspiring sports writer. When Rafael, now grown, kindly autographs Grace’s ball at a spring-training game, Maya finds herself watching him closely and cheering him on, finding solace and connection in baseball. Maya worries about the health of the planet. Her summer project to grow a patch of prairie in her backyard to attract and shelter pollinators—bees—is painfully derailed by an insecticide made by her father’s company. Scaletta deftly weaves worry, optimism, and determination together in Rafael’s struggle to succeed and Maya’s grappling with love for her father. The tight focus on the emotional lives of his protagonists in these connecting narratives inspires genuine feeling for each.
Full of heart and hope. (Fiction. 9-13)