cover image Screaming at the Ump

Screaming at the Ump

Audrey Vernick. Clarion, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-544-25208-0

Casey Snowden, 12, loves life at Behind the Plate, the third best (out of three) U.S. academy devoted to training baseball umpires. He lives there with his father, grandfather, and (often) best friend Zeke, whose absent parents have a busy dental practice. Also absent is Casey's mother, who hated living on the retooled grounds of a former reform school, and left with Bob the Baker, the bread delivery guy. As sixth grade starts, another session of umpiring school begins, and this one includes a student who goes by one name but bears an uncanny resemblance to a former major league pitcher who disappeared following a steroids scandal. Could they be one and same, and can Casey make a splash in the school newspaper if he uncovers the truth? Multiple threads come together in a well-crafted way when Casey realizes the same skills an umpire needs%E2%80%94being objective and fair, knowing the rules, and being in the right spot to make the call%E2%80%94also apply to becoming a good journalist and healing his broken relationship with his mother. Ages 10%E2%80%9314. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Mar.)