Tank is a 2,580-pound rhinoceros living in the city zoo.
Unfortunately, his domicile is just on the other side of the right-field fence at the park where 12-year-old Nick Spirakis and his friends play their own variation of baseball. When Nick misses a ball that his nemesis, Pete, drives into Tank’s territory, Nick jumps in, grabs the ball, and makes it out just in time to avoid Tank’s charge. Nick narrates the tale, set in 1948 in a Midwestern city patterned after Milwaukee, describing his friends and activities as if he is in direct conversation with readers. Every Saturday is spent working in his father’s shop, wishing he could be playing ball instead. His father, a Greek immigrant, prizes hard work and ambition and is determined that Nick will own the shop someday. Everything changes when the new owner of the city’s minor league baseball team shakes everything up. There are promotions to lure everyone into the ballpark. Nick and his pals join a batboy-for-a-day contest that takes place on Saturdays, causing him to invent some rather convoluted lies to explain his absences from the shop. Themes (rivalries, family dynamics, feminism) and historical details (radio announcers, frozen custard) combine with lots of mishaps and misadventures, including another very public encounter with Tank. The story assumes a white default.
Laugh-out-loud fun with a wonderful cast of characters. A winner in every way. (acknowledgments, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)