A gay black baseball player posthumously inspires a sixth grade white boy who is ready-ish to come out.
Baseball enthusiast Silas Wade opens the book by giving a colorful class presentation about Glenn Burke. Burke was a once-well-known major league player who invented the high-five and eventually left the sport after enduring isolation and harassment for being gay. Silas leaves that last part out, but heralding his hero in front of a crowd is the silent start of his own coming out. Further testing the waters, he tells his best friend, Zoey (a champion robot builder), he’s gay and finds that there’s a bouncy kind of freedom that comes from saying who he really is. Inspirational YouTube videos encourage Silas to come out to Coach Webb, an adult who embodies the understanding, guidance, protection, and encouragement that all queer kids should have. But when Silas gets nervous about everything changing and wants to backpedal into the closet, circumstances put him at a crossroads: continue to lie for self-preservation or live out loud like Glenn Burke wasn’t able to. Silas is white, but Zoey has a Spanish surname, and his baseball teammates and one coach are black and brown. (One notable moment includes an explanation from the coaches about why monkey insults are racist.) As the narrative foundation is established, there are overt explanations of settings and characters that aren’t additive, but these superfluous tendencies dissolve about 50 pages in. Insights into Silas’ home life feel bittersweet and real with parents fumbling to do the best they can, but Silas’ struggle is the central story.
Beleaguered tolerance strikes out; loud, proud love wins the game. (Fiction. 10-12)