cover image Warrior on the Mound

Warrior on the Mound

Sandra W. Headen. Holiday House, $18.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5378-8

Headen uses baseball to explore themes of racism in this powerful debut set in North Carolina during the Jim Crow era. In 1935, 12-year-old Cato Jones, who is Black, aspires to pitch for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League like his late father and older brother. Cato and his team, the Pender County Rangers, often skip school to practice on the new field built by white businessman Luke Blackburn for his own son’s team. Cato dreams of playing an actual game on that field, with its real bases, bleachers, and pitching mound: “I would love to see the Rangers whip the tar out of that white boy and his team right on their own fancy ball field. Just one fair game, and we could do it.” Scheduling a game against Blackburn’s son proves easy; keeping it fair, however, is not. And after the ball game triggers a resurgence of racial violence, Cato’s tight-knit Black community must rally around one another to keep each other safe. The protagonist’s first-person POV adds immediacy to this emotionally charged sports novel, making for a winning combination of action-driven plotting and underlying historical tension that will inspire discussion surrounding Jim Crow era and contemporary prejudice. Ample back matter concludes. Ages 8–12. Agent: Victoria Selvaggio, Storm Literary. (Mar.)