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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Keeping Score, written by Linda Sue Park. Houghton, T Allen. $8.99 ages 10 and up

"And Willie - Willie was part of making it happen. Maggie's score sheets for the Giants' games were littered with exclamation points for his terrific plays in the outfield. On the bases, he ran so hard that he turned singles into doubles - twenty-two of them, fourth best on the team, even though he was only a rookie - and doubles into triples, that rarest and most exciting of hits. Five of them that year, when most players were lucky to hit five in a lifetime."

It's the early 50s and Maggie and her brother are ardent fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They don't always make a good showing but Maggie's love for them never wanes. She listens to the games on the radio and visits with the firefighters in her neighborhood to discuss the games, the players and their opposition. When Jim joins the crew, he shows Maggie how to keep score and although he is a Giants fan, especially of Willie Mays, Maggie spends a lot of time with him and learns more about the game she loves.

When Jim goes to fight in Korea, Maggie writes to him often and is always excited to hear his news. His letters suddenly stop and Maggie is left to wonder what has happened. As she waits impatiently for the next letter, Maggie determines to learn as much about the Korean conflict as she can. It is far too long before she hears that Jim has come home on a medical discharge. He won't talk to Maggie, doesn't listen to ball games anymore and seems isolated in a strange new world of his own. It is very difficult for Maggie to understand.

Those who love the grand game will enjoy this well-written period piece that gives life to a young girl in love with baseball, concerned about a friend and trying to make sense of an increasingly complex world. You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the fine storytelling ability of Linda Sue Park. Once you have read this one, check out her other titles. She does not disappoint!

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