Eleven-year-old Vivian Jane Cohen has autism but she also throws a mean knuckleball and yearns to play baseball.
Vivy first learned of the knuckleball three years ago, at an autism event where then–minor league pitcher VJ Capello showed her how to hold the ball the right way, but she mastered it on her own. Now a coach has seen her throwing to her older brother, Nate, and invited her to join his team. Although she initially begins writing to VJ to fulfill a school assignment, little expecting a reply, magically, he begins to write back. This vivid epistolary tale captures Vivy’s growing sense of her own capabilities as she discovers that she can mostly hold her own on a boys’ team, even though she has to deal with cruel bullying from the coach’s obnoxious son. It helps that her catcher, Alex, accepts her fully and offers warm, believable encouragement as she finds ways to push back against her overprotective mother’s smothering management. Just as helpful are VJ’s insights on pitching, bullying, and life in general as he struggles with his own uncertainties. Vivy, Nate, and their parents are white and Jewish. VJ is black and Alex, Mexican American, offering opportunities for reflection on discrimination’s many facets, while in a subplot, Nate comes out as gay to their accepting parents.
A satisfying baseball story that never minimizes the challenges of autism but celebrates skill, determination, and love for the game.(Fiction. 9-12)