cover image Plunked


Michael Northrop. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-545-29714-1

Sixth-grader Jack Mogens thinks his big worry for the new baseball season is whether he’ll win the starting position in left field. Instead, his preoccupation becomes the inside pitch, after he gets clouted in the head with one on opening day. Fear sets in when, at the next batting practice, Jack is hit again, by a nasty teammate (nicknamed “Malfoy”). This is how a lot of youth sports careers end, and many athletes will recognize themselves in Jack’s predicament. Though Jack is invested in baseball as a player, a fan, and a collector of cards and memorabilia, he is terrified of embarrassing himself by bailing out on a pitch again. YA author Northrop’s (Trapped) first middle-grade novel underscores how the professionalization of youth sports has benched common sense—even Jack’s well-meaning parents don’t suggest he take some time off after the doctor diagnoses a mild concussion. Though there is well-written baseball action, this is really a story about a boy giving his lifelong dream serious reconsideration. An uncommonly thoughtful baseball novel. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Mar.)