A lovely nod to Derek Jeter rounds out a winner of a sports novel.

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THE ONLY GAME

From the Home Team series , Vol. 1

In the opener of a four-book series about kids in the baseball-loving town of Walton, 12-year-old Jack Callahan struggles to square his personal sorrows with his deep love of the game.

Gifted baseball player Jack and buddy Gus, whose family roots in the Dominican Republic partly inform his aspiration to the Little League championships in Williamsport, have played since T-ball. Jack’s sudden announcement on tryout day that he won’t be playing this season angers Gus and bewilders his own parents. But the town’s softball superstar, classmate Cassie, steps up to offer simple, straightforward friendship to Jack. She persuades Jack to keep connected with the game by helping her dad coach her team. A new friendship with another classmate, Teddy, allows Jack to reveal that he blames himself for his risk-taking older brother’s accidental death the summer before. Adults are admirable: Coaches emphasize sportsmanship; parents set aside their own troubles to support their children. The baseball narrative is terrific—Lupica recaps these fictional games with brisk, exciting clarity. The friendship story is solid, kind and reassuring, and even if most of the young characters demonstrate unlikely maturity rather than depth, readers will only notice the qualities that are best in them.

A lovely nod to Derek Jeter rounds out a winner of a sports novel. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0995-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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