A home run, though not a grand slam.

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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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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