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Summary: Joe Stoshack (Stosh) has had it with the insults about his Polish heritage. When Bobby Fuller, a pitcher for the opposing team starts, Stosh loses his temper and charges the mound to teach Fuller a lesson. The lesson is Stosh's: he is banned from his Little League. The next day Stosh receives an assignment to write a report on an influential African American. Stosh, looking through his baseball cards, picks Jackie Robinson. That sends him back in time to witness Robinson’s first game in the Majors. After meeting the Robinsons, Jackie takes Joe to see Opening Day game, becoming an African American bat boy for the team. He is partnered with "Ant." Ant thinks Stosh is a Communist and steals the baseball card, which is years ahead of its time. Stosh gets it back but then makes a round trip back to 1947. This time, as a Caucasian fan, where he watches the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. When Ant spots him, Stosh is forced to return to the present, this time for good. For the last game of the season, the Little League lifts Stosh’s ban, Stosh once again facing Fuller in the last inning with the score tied. This time Stosh ignores Fuller’s jeers and gets a single, managing to successfully steal second, third, and home base to make the winning run. This is an historical fiction story for middle grade readers.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 8 and up; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: I personally recommend this book for any reader, be they a girl, boy, or even an adult. Even now, at 15, this book awakens in me such an amazing feeling in ways not many other books have or, maybe, ever will. The stark but kid-friendly way Dan Gutman writes paints a very vivid picture of the harsh reality of the White America of the 1940s and 1950s. The courage that ran through the blood of Jackie Robinson, painted by Gutman’s words, is infectious to its core. Imagine a man standing when everything was in its harshest point, a time when not even light had the energy to show its face in the delirium of darkness, to go against every civil order that had been considered Gospel at the time. Imagine a man who, receiving hate-letters and death-threats almost daily, stood up and literally dared someone to a shot at him. Jackie Robinson is a man who I wish to embody someday. Dan Gutman gives full credence and affability to a man who, despite his color, race, and quick temper changed our world for the better.
Adult Reader Reaction: These are fascinating stories, and I can second what our teen reader says: they are enjoyable as an adult, too ... even as a Mom! The action is well paced, but slow enough for you to consider what is happening and start drawing out the lessons.
Pros: Readers of all ages will enjoy this book that draws parallels between history and current times. Preteens and teens will see relevance in ways that can open their eyes.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a book kids could easily come back to just to browse the story again.