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Batboy (Review)

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The Batboy
Mike Lupica, 2010
256 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
February, 2012

Brian Dudley needs his dad; Brian's idol—famous hitter Hank Bishop—needs his inner child, the kid Hank used to be, the one who once loved baseball. That's the premise of this delightful tale about a boy, a man, and their love of the game.

Fourteen-year-old Brian gets his dream summer job as a batboy for the Detroit Tigers. He's nuts about the game and thinks, hopes, prays that the sport will somehow bring him closer to his father, a washed-up major leaguer who's left home for good.

Hank Bishop is washed up, too. When no one wanted him, the Tigers decide to take him on, giving him a chance to reclaim his former glory...and to finally hit 500.

Brian's and Hank's stories intertwine and then parallel one another. Brian is in a slump with his traveling team, he can't hit, while Hank, after a showy start with the Tigers, can't hit either.

There are no surprises here—you know how it's all going to turn out—but the fun is in getting there. Lots of baseball talk and strategy and plays. Knowing nothing about the game, it's fun to be brought into the fanatical world of baseball—the way kids and adults alike become steeped in the lore of the game. They carry reams of statistics in their heads and can recall every history of every player better than they can recall any history learned in school.

You also feel the heartbreak at the heart of the game—the way skill can be undermined by chance; the way the psyche can trip up a player, no matter how good. I came away from this book with an enlarged understanding and respect for the game.

Batboy is a young adult book, written primarily for boys, by prolific baseball writer Mike Lupica. Lupica is especially good at dialogue, wonderfully parroting the "trash talk" of the players and the slang of young kids. "No way," says Brian's friend Kenny. "Yes, way," says Brian. You can just hear the rise and fall of the long-A in Brian's response. Batboy is a terrifc read for any adult who loves a heart-warming story about lonely people finding one another.

See our Reading Guide for The Batboy.


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