Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hey Batter Batter, Swing Like Shakespeare!

Recommended for grades 6-9

If I could non-stop quote Ron Koertge’s Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs (Candlewick) I would. The brilliance with which he has written this book makes this my favorite book I’ve read this year (and that’s saying something!). Koertge won me over with his protagonist Kevin, who writes,

I love my thesaurus. I like

to think about all the words

in there, cuddling up together

or arguing. Montagues on

one side, Capulets on the other.

Synonyms and antonyms (p. 4).

This is Kevin writing, who is a 14-year-old baseball playing male! But it gets better, Kevin’s father won me over on page 1, “Want a journal?” he asks. “You’re a writer./ All writers need journals.” What an awesome dad!

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs is the sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. The protagonist, Kevin, nicknamed Shakespeare, is in middle school. The majority of the actual novel is composed of Kevin’s poetry. The book even gives very loosely directed poetry instruction. Several story lines are covered, so I was curious to see how it would all work because a novel could be spread too thin with so much going on. Koertge pulls it off because of the journaling, e-mail, IMing, and phone conversations he chooses as the story format.

Kevin has a girlfriend Mira, who is not interested in his poetry or baseball. Kevin then meets Amy at an open mike event at Amy’s mother’s bookstore. They soon begin e-mailing poems back and forth, the whole time Kevin is becoming more interested in Amy. While this is going on, Kevin’s baseball games are interspersed throughout. He also has to adjust to his father dating again after his mother’s death (which happened prior to this novel) and the back and forth conversations with himself over his feelings towards Mira.

Kevin’s story is part sports, school, romance, family relationship, grieving, and poetry story. It’s written in first person from Kevin’s perspective and we only know the other characters through Kevin’s eyes. What Koertge brought to the table with this novel is brilliant and I hope to see it succeed in this overwhelming world of children’s literature.

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