EXTRA INNINGS

Memorable for its cast, if not its patchy plot, this tale revolves around a teenager regaining his balance, both figuratively and literally, after losing most of his upper-class family. But as the title indicates, it’s really more about the lives and characters of the elderly relatives who take him in. A plane crash has left Tate Stonemason without parents, grandparents, or siblings, and with a shattered leg that has brought an end to his dreams of playing professional baseball. Only his great grandfather Abbott and Abbott’s adopted daughter, Vidalia, herself over 70, remain to care for him. They do that, in part, by sharing baseball memories: Abbott, of attending Ty Cobb’s funeral; Vidalia, of “Ethiopia’s Clowns,” African-American barnstormers who raised her for ten years during the Depression era after she was left as a baby on the team bus. Peck (Cowboy Ghost, 1999, etc.) stitches together a set of connected but separate tales. They include an airport worker’s act of negligence that causes the crash; the Clowns’ experiences in towns both hostile and welcoming; the adoption of young Vidalia into the Stonemason family despite the color of her skin; and finally, Vidalia’s death, and the keeping of certain promises made to her by Tate and Abbott. The Stonemasons’ oddly stilted way of speaking with each other—“ ‘Mr. Tate believes that there’s only darksome, but all he has to do is wait patient for a dawn. No storm endures forever. There always comes a sunup. Perhaps not the perfect day, but nevertheless a spanking-fresh one.’ ”—has the effect of bringing out how strong, close, and loving they are, and though the worst of Tate’s dark night passes between chapters, his healing brings the story to a strong close. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-028867-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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CLOSE-UP

“On the basis of their own words” Dudevszky wrote first-person accounts of the sad ordeals of several teenagers who are unable to reside with their families. There are reasons—often a list of reasons—the teenagers no longer live at home, and none of them are good. Marco’s father molested his sisters, Brenda’s parents were addicted to alcohol and drugs, Manuela’s father beat her, and Leyla had to escape from Iran for political reasons. The message that trumpets through is how desperately these youngsters, most living in foster or group homes in the Netherlands, need attention and affection. Jerry, a youth home resident, says, “I don’t get homesick at all. I don’t see my parents that much. They don’t come on my birthday. Well, so they don’t. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.” Maarten, 16, who was moved six times in four years, says, “I often felt lonely. Every time you go to another place you’re all on your own again.” Although the book is worthy, the tone is understandably depressing, and after a while the individual stories lose their bite. Readers who have the pertinacity to get through it will root for Asena and her “number-one wish,” which is “to become happy.” (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-886910-40-5

Page Count: 125

Publisher: Lemniscaat/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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