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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs, written by Ron Koertge. Candlewick, Random House. 2010. $20.00 ages 12 and up

"When somebody in the back row asks him, 'What does
this poem mean?', he says, 'Don't worry so much
about what it means. Pretend poetry is chili
and you're starving. Would you ask what chili means?
Just eat it up."

So, what do think about baseball and poetry? Do they go together? They do if you are Kevin Boland. You may have met Kevin at an earlier time (Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, Candlewick 2003). You are sure to remember him. He is a memorable, thougthful and capable young man who likes both baseball and writing.

In this absorbing sequel, Kevin continues his writing at his Dad's prompting. Again, he finds himself dealing with the many issues that are a middle schooler's life...friendship, romance, school, sports, family. Writing helps him sort through some of his concerns with humor, great spirit, originality and deep thought. He is observant of the events that are happening around him, trying to sort through a barrage of feelings in terms of his relationships with Mira and then with Amy and, all the while, writing poetry in free verse and other forms to help himself verbalize it. You can be an athlete and a poet, and Kevin shows us how.

Ron Koertge slyly gets this poetry into our hearts and minds through characters that we care about deeply. While the issues are many, they are handled with a light touch and we never feel overwhelmed by them. His ability to create images, use wonderful language and write a well-paced story draws us in from the first page and never lets us go. It is a brilliant look at an amazing character and should be read in all middle years classrooms to encourage talk, careful thought and an appreciation of the power of poetry to tell a unique story.

I can't wait to meet Kevin again!

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