In this children’s chapter book, a sweet, sincere baseball fan experiences the highs and lows of being 9 years old.
In a series of self-contained chapters previously published as short stories, Tolles (Darci in Cabin 13, 1989) introduces us to a regular kid who has an endearing zest for life. Ben gives each activity his all, whether he’s competing in an Easter egg hunt, making a gift for his great-grandmother or playing baseball. When he receives a new baseball mitt, for example, he’s so determined to “make a good pocket” that he sleeps on top of the mitt with a baseball inside it. Familial love shines through in these timeless anecdotes; when Ben’s little sister, Becky, uses his beloved mitt as a doll bed, he doesn’t get angry, as readers might expect: “Sisters, Ben thought. They were full of surprises.” Though Ben is 9 in the story, he will appeal to younger readers as well. Each chapter—and, thus, each story—is six pages or fewer, making this book ideal for beginning or reluctant readers who need a boost of confidence. Unfortunately, the tales have no unifying theme, and the jumps from one chapter to the next can be a bit bumpy at times—especially the chapter narrated by the new family dog. That chapter begins, “My folks were going on a vacation but they weren’t planning to take me.” Although it may have worked as a short story, it’s such an awkward shift that it may be a bit too jarring for a beginning reader. Other narrative jumps could use more explanation, as well.
Not a home run, but a solid, likable collection.