cover image Heart of a Champion

Heart of a Champion

Carl Deuker, Author Joy Street Books $15.95 (199p) ISBN 978-0-316-18166-2

Baseball becomes a metaphor for life in Deuker's thought-provoking testimonial to friendship and filial love. Narrator Seth, who lost his father at age seven, becomes a baseball fanatic five years later, when he starts playing ball with Jimmy Winter and Jimmy's perfectionist father. But Mr. Winter is hardly perfect: an alcoholic, he abruptly moves out and stops seeing Jimmy, then months later shows up, drunk, at a ballgame. Jimmy subsequently moves away, but Seth has been so strongly influenced that he's even eligible for the honors program in high school. Seth joins junior varsity baseball and is thrilled when Jimmy moves back and also makes the team. They start attending weekly beer-drinking parties at the home of teammate Todd. To his despair, Seth gets left in J.V. while Jimmy and Todd become varsity stars, even though they're suspended once for drinking. Eventually Seth makes the varsity squad and, along with Todd, quits drinking. But even with athletic stardom beckoning, Jimmy doesn't sober up, and the consequences are tragic. Deuker ( On the Devil's Court ) writes grittily, with action worthy of the sports page. Yet the sensitive examination of the importance of a father--or lack of one--in a boy's life is where Deuker really hits a home run. Ages 12-up. (May)