A home run, though not a grand slam.

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THE SECRET AT HANEY FIELD

A BASEBALL MYSTERY

Two young baseball buffs stumble onto a mysterious occurrence at a minor league baseball stadium in Clark’s (Center Point, 2013, etc.) novel.

Fans of baseball history will recall the Negro leagues, the alternative leagues in which African-Americans had to play in the shadows of the major leagues because of a ban on black players. Now, 12-year-old April O’Day, a hard-core baseball fan, is in seventh heaven when she lands a job as the local minor league team’s bat girl. Before long, April’s not only retrieving bats, but giving advice to the ballplayers on what size/weight bat to use, when to steal, and other counsel based on her knowledge and observations. One day she sees vague images—“shadow players”—playing on the field after the regular game ends. The team owner, Mr. Haney, sees them too and asks April and her best friend, Darren Plummer, to investigate. However, just as the two friends discover that these players are from the Negro leagues, Haney inexplicably forbids the kids from investigating further and fires them. Realizing something strange is afoot, the kids continue their efforts to uncover the truth. While baseball is a passion of his, Clark has his sights set on the deeper issue of racism in general. The book is a well-written Disney-like story—characters do the right thing, and everything is tied up in a neat little bow. The characters are well-drawn and likable, and Clark obviously knows baseball. The story moves quickly, without unnecessary subplots slowing it down, but it unfortunately lacks real historical perspective. Even just a few paragraphs on the tragedies of players like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Double-Duty Radcliffe or others—who were forced to display their prodigious talents in subpar circumstances simply because of skin color—may awaken a youngster’s understanding of racism’s inanity. Still, in a kid’s literature market overstuffed with sensitive vampires and magical realms, it’s refreshing to see a story that attempts to be something more.

A home run, though not a grand slam.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9913646-2-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: MB Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2014

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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