cover image Play Ball

Play Ball

Dean Hughes. Aladdin Paperbacks, $3.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81933-9

Hughes's (Family Pose; Team Picture) breezy writing style and a lineup of credible characters get his Scrappers series off to a winning start. If the Mighty Ducks abandoned the ice for the baseball diamond, they might look quite a bit like the Scrappers, the team that Robbie and Wilson must hastily assemble in order to play during the summer season. Young baseball devotees will readily forgive Hughes if he occasionally indulges in cliches to cheer on his play-by-play recounting of action on the field. The author counts more than balls and strikes here, as he focuses on such ethical issues as Robbie's punishment for inventing a ""cousin"" to fill out the requisite number of players to form a team, and the philosophy of the Scrappers' wise coach, who emphasizes teamwork over star treatment and refuses to play his top athlete until the boy's negative attitude changes. Three girl team members add some lively dynamics, as when plucky Gloria, vying with Robbie for the shortstop position, quips, ""How come boys are always wrong?"" in response to his claim that he is the better player. Readers will likely want to play ball with this team of characters. Up next is Home Run Hero, due the same month. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)