Growing up I devoured sports books like candy. It’s what kept me reading. Nowadays I find myself into a wide variety of books, but when summer or fall approaches I get the urge to immerse myself in another thrilling sport’s story. Mike Lupica is one of my go to authors for this purpose and his newest, THE ONLY GAME, arrived just in time.
The story is about dealing with a tragedy, quitting something you love because of that tragedy, but then finding new friends who understand and help. Our protagonist, Jack, has much to worry with the choices he feels he must make. It’s not your typical book about baseball though there are numerous games played. I’ve known kids who have lost a close sibling, and its a tough road to travel for each of them. It does take time and though parts of this novel are predictable, I enjoyed this tale enough to feature it today.
PUBLICATION DATE:2015 WORD COUNT: 59,561 LEVEL: 5.0
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Jack Callahan is the star of his baseball team and sixth grade is supposed to be his year. Undefeated season. Records shattered. Little League World Series. The works. That is, until he up and quits.
Jack’s best friend Gus can’t understand how Jack could leave a game that means more to them than anything else. But Jack is done. It’s a year of change. Jack’s brother has passed away, and though his family and friends and the whole town of Walton thinks baseball is just the thing he needs to move on, Jack feels it’s anything but.
In comes Cassie Bennett, star softball player, and the only person who seems to think Jack shouldn’t play if he doesn’t want to. As Jack and Cassie’s friendship deepens, their circle expands to include Teddy, a guy who’s been picked on because of his weight.
Time spent with these new friends unlocks something within Jack, and with their help and the support of his family and his old friends, Jack discovers sometimes it’s more than just the love of the game that keeps us moving—and he might just be able to find his way back to The Only Game.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THE ONLY GAME by Mike Lupica
- Jack’s parents are supportive and understanding. They are both there for him in different ways and together they make a super family. You’d love to have them as neighbors.
- Cassie, Jack’s new friend, is a feisty and strong female character. It’s understood by everyone that she is a leader and you’d best listen to her advice. No early romance here but their friendship strengthens as the story unfolds.
- Too often baseball books are formula written with a team playing through a season to win a championship. The addition of Jack’s struggles to regain his past and his drive to help another new friend, Teddy, The Only Game takes a much different path.
- The coach reminded me of many of the fine coaches you see and hear each summer in the Little League World Series. There’s a trick to motivating 12-year-olds and these gifted coaches always seem to have the right words.
- This becomes the first book in Mike Lupica’s new series called A HOME TEAM. I am looking forward to whatever this brings forth whether it be the same characters we’ve met here or new ones.
FAVORITE LINES: He knew how much he was going to miss baseball. He was missing it already, just watching the Red Sox play the Orioles on television. Now he wondered how much he was going to have to miss his best friend, too. But maybe you could get better at missing things–and people–with enough practice.
No Quote from the author this week as most were too long. You may be interested in Mike’s author page where you can see the wide variety of MG related sport’s books he has written.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.