James Preller, . . Feiwel and Friends, $16.95 (147pp) ISBN 978-0-312-36763-3
Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones mysteries, raises his game with this perceptive group portrait of boys who play Little League baseball. The structure couldn't be more hackneyed—a championship game with everything on the line—but Preller makes it fresh with insightful sketches of each member of the (underdog) Earl Grubb's Pool Supplies team. There's the coach's kid, Branden, who has baseball's “five tools,” plus one: he forgets failure immediately. The Sweeney twins are a study in contrasts: Eamon is “ninety-six pounds of stress,” while Colin speaks in quotes from baseball movies and jibes the opposing first baseman—“I'd love to chat, but I don't think I'll be hanging around for long”—before stealing second. Sam, sidelined by a tumor in his leg, calls the game from the press box, aching to play, while Patrick Wong, “the weakest gazelle in the herd,” prays from the infield: “Please, God in heaven, don't let them hit it to me.” The outcome is predictable but the journey is nailbitingly tense. Kids will be nodding in agreement at the truths laid bare. If Judy Blume could write a book about Little League, about its players' deepest fears and secret dreams, it might come out something like this. Ages 9-14.
Reviewed on: 03/24/2008