ME, MOP, AND THE MOONDANCE KID
Walter Dean Myers
Myers' third fine book this year--unlike Fallen Angels (p. 696/C- 114) and Scorpions (p. 764/C-126)--is relatively light-hearted, involving kids playing Little League baseball near Jersey City, N.J. Still--though the exciting play-by-play games will satisfy sports buffs--narrator T.J. tells more than a baseball story. He and his younger brother, "Moondance," adopted only six months ago, are not yet at ease with their new parents, especially Dad--who played pro ball and is oblivious to the pain T.J. feels at his own inadequecies. Their friend "Mop" is still at the Catholic orphanage, but will be adopted at book's end by their coach, Marla; Mop and Marla's growing affection is one of the book's many deftly portrayed interactions. Moondance has the makings of a fine pitcher; even T.J. improves sufficiently to win Dad's approbation, with the help of some neatly sketched minor characters: Sister Carmelita, a young nun who's often in trouble; Peaches, a derelict with heart. The rival team, a bunch of heckling poor sports, is led by a coach whose unfair tactics include getting a man from Child Welfare to remove Mop as catcher in the middle of a championship game because she's a girl--a telling analogy to the proverbial politics of Jersey City. Much is conveyed here by few words: Myers makes every bit of dialogue reveal character, every action count. There are nifty vignettes: an old nun taking a losing team out for pizza and comforting them with the agony of St. Sebastian; T.J. rescuing Moondance's old toy bear from the toilet it's accidentally clogging. Some of these people are black, some white; if anyone needs to know, the illustrations reveal which are which. An easily enjoyed story, yet thoughtful, perceptive, and possessing real depth.