cover image Hothead


Cal Ripken Jr. with Kevin Cowherd, Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-4231-4000-9

In a surprisingly bland story given the title, retired Baltimore Orioles star and first-time children's book author Ripken and coauthor Cowherd introduce seventh-grader Connor Sullivan, a baseball phenom with a killer swing but an ever-mounting temper. Connor's team is headed for the Babe Ruth League championship, until his game-time outbursts jeopardize the team's success. Suddenly Connor's life is on a downward spiral: his best friend balks at his poor behavior, his coach threatens to kick him off the team, financial pressures mount at home (his father has been out of work for months), and an annoying but cute classmate insists on documenting his demise for the school newspaper. A pep talk from his coach gets Connor back on track, and—no surprise—Connor rebounds to lead his team to victory. Ripken and Cowherd's characters are empathetic (the economic stresses weighing on Connor add to his relatability and to the book's timeliness), and baseball fans should find the action on the diamond enjoyable if not nail-biting. Still, the plot is a little too familiar, and Connor's "all is lost" moment is mild. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)