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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Brookyn Nine, written by Alan Gratz. Dial, Penguin. 2010. $10.99 ages 10 and up

"Kieran searched the high blue sky for an explanation. "It's like - it's like reading a book to review it. Somehow having to break a book down into its parts to critique it sucks all the joy out for me. I greatly prefer to write my story in advance, and then sit back and enjoy the sum total of the afternoon. Besides, the truth is subjective.""

Baseball season is upon us and I am watching the Blue Jays with interest, eager to see how this young team will fare in the 2012 season. It gave me just the impetus needed to get to a book that I have had on my TBR pile for too long, and I am so glad that I took the time this week to read it.

It is a family story that begins in Berlin and reaches across the ocean, and through generations,
with baseball at its core. In a series of short stories, told in nine 'innings', Alan Gratz introduces his readers to family members, different eras and the power of connections.

It's begins in 1845 in Manhattan:

"Nine months ago, Felix Schneider was the fastest boy in Bremen, Germany. Now he was the fastest boy in Manhattan, New York. He was so fast, in fact, the ship that brought him to America was a day early."

Now, there's the way to get a reader wanting to know more. As each inning begins and ends we learn about the game of baseball, and how it has changed over the past century and a half. It is a clear and insightful picture of America in its different eras: Civil War, Vaudeville, the 1920s gangsters, racism and the Negro League, the All-American Girls Baseball League and the Cold War. It's a great way to look at history, at sport and at a variety of worthy characters...all connected through baseball memorabilia. While it is sure to appeal to those who love to read sports stories, there is much more to it. Those who love history will be captivated as will those who like to read generational family stories.

Each inning depicts one family member, one period of time, and some aspect of baseball. As I read each story I went to the Author Notes following the text to learn more about the time being considered. The first inning note recalls Alexander Cartwright who is considered the father of modern baseball, and the changes made when he founded the Knickerbockers. One of the most appealing must have been the change in rules that no longer allowed players to throw the ball at runners to get them out! Thank goodness for small mercies for those playing the game in years to follow.

In the eighth inning when Michael is pitching toward a perfect game, he comes to grips with the day and the game he is pitching:

"It was a day like Michael had never known and knew he would never see again. Like Sandy Koufax and his perfect game, it was a special gift in a special time and a special place, one that he shouldn't examine too closely, one he could never duplicate. No matter how much he worked, no matter how hard he tried, it was the kind of perfect day that would come only when it wanted to, when the sun smiled and the grass laughed and wind sang hm-batter-hm-batter-hm-batter-swing."

Alan Gratz has other wonderful observations to make in his author's note, not the least of which is this one:

 “Baseball, more than any other sport, has a magical way of connecting fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandparents and grandchildren, and ancestors back down the line.”

The characters are worth knowing, the writing is outstanding, and it will be enjoyed by many! If you are interested in knowing more, go to the following link:

1 comment:

  1. I adored this one, but it is only a hit with about half of the boys who check it out. At least they are trying it. Probably too much history and not enough baseball for some of them.