CLOSE CALL by Todd Strasser


Age Range: 10 - 12
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Strasser (Kidnap Kids, 1998, etc.) issues an unsubtle problem-solving clinic built around a baseball teammate’s sudden change of behavior. The fifth and sixth graders who gather to play after school are used to having their games occasionally disrupted by rock-throwing high schoolers, but are taken aback when Jenny, one of their own, starts arguing obvious calls, stalking off in a huff if she doesn’t get her way, and sometimes not showing up at all. Eventually team captains Ian and Krishnan find out what’s up; because Jenny’s stepfather has entered a drug rehabilitation program and her mother has been forced to find a job, Jenny has been saddled with caring for her two-year-old brother for long stretches, a responsibility that she’s really not up to. After a bit of parental prodding, Ian invites Jenny, and her stepbrother Billy, one of the rock throwers, over for pasta and other comforts, persuades his teammates to help keep an eye on Peter, and disarms the high school punks by challenging them to a game. The last two-page chapter acts as a hasty exit, summarizing the resolutions; sports fans—and most other readers—will be disappointed by a near-total lack of action. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-399-23124-X
Page count: 121pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999